Saturday, July 30, 2011

LA Times

Two blog posts in as many days!  Crazy.  You know what this means, right?  I've started another writing project.  And my Propensity Towards Procrastination shall land me repeatedly the blog...every time I sit down to write.  So, hello! How are you?  How are things?  Please...tell me.  Otherwise I might have to (gulp) write. something.

We went to Los Angeles last week, remember that?  We've been going to Los Angeles since Jules was seven years old.  It's not for giggles - we go because Jules has a tumor and we see a doctor at The House Clinic, where they monitor and treat more of this type of tumor than anywhere else.

Jules is now 13.  And he's bigger than me.  The first time he had an MRI in Los Angeles, I carried him down the hall.  Obviously, I don't do that anymore.
As we sat in the San Antonio airport I casually said, "Did we ever confirm the appointment?"  We've learned over the years that it is prudent to confirm appointments at this particular clinic.  "I mean, we know the hospital appointment is confirmed...but what about the clinic?" 

Jeff called the clinic.  While we were boarding our flight.  And guess what?  They'd cancelled our appointment and we were supposed to have somehow known that.  I guess somebody was supposed to have called us.  On any one of the 3 phone numbers on file for us at the clinic. 

Now we're knocking our way down the aisle of the plane..."We're flying in from Texas.  No, RIGHT NOW.  We're on the plane right now.  Nobody called us."

What was the point in our calling to confirm while already on the plane?  We did it for the same reason we go to Los Angeles every year.  To make ourselves feel better.  To reassure ourselves that everything is bumping along as it should be.  Yes, yes...we're just calling to confirm our appointment...ta da! Yes! We knew we had an appointment, just calling to confirm! Thanks a lot!

Only this time?  We didn't have an appointment and we had to see a Different Doctor.

Reassuring ourselves.  That's why we go to Los Angeles.  Hello! We're just here to have an MRI to confirm that this tumor isn't growing!  Just here for that confirmation, thank you very much.  Just checking...just a formality and all that...we'll just be on our way for another year, now.

Only this time?  We didn't get that confirmation.

The Different Doctor told us immediately that the tumor had grown.  And I didn't believe him because he was a Different Doctor.  He told us the measurements of the tumor and the measurements fluctuate from year to time a tad bigger, the next time a tad smaller...because whether we like it or not - this medical business is not an Exact Science.  In fact, I suspect that it is Actual Voodoo. And with every fluctuation, our doctor has announced that the difference wasn't measurable or significant or something like that and then we would vacate the premises feeling all victorious, like we had personally done something to keep that tumor in check, like we'd won a game or defeated an adversary or achieved some kind of Concrete Goal.  Woot! It didn't grow.  I know...we're awesome, right?

The exam started badly with the Different Doctor walking in and flipping casually through Jules' very thick chart.  I hate it when they do that.  I feel like I can't talk, because the doctor is "busy flipping through the chart."  Talking to a doctor while he's flipping through a chart is like talking to Joel while he's playing a video game.  Not very satisfying. I could have given him the entire low-down in under a minute and he wouldn't have had to look at the chart except for maybe some confirmation but I didn't say anything and he silently flipped before asking Jules how his hearing was in his right ear.  Seeing as how Jules is completely deaf in his right ear and seeing as how the doctor was sitting on his right side, Jules didn't even hear, much less, answer the question.  I sighed.  So much for the effectiveness of chart flipping.

"It's on the cochlear branch, not the vestibular," I said like some sort of expert.

"Oh!" said the Different Doctor.  Flip, flip, flip.... "Well, it's definitely grown."

So you can see how at this point I wasn't really putting all that much stock in his proclamation.  He started talking surgery and I started tuning out.  Where's the Real Doctor?? I wanted to shout.  Because this guy didn't seem to understand How This Worked.  He was supposed to say it hadn't grown and then we were supposed to march out through the waiting room with We are the Champions playing in our heads, past the other patients who may or may not be quite as good at prohibiting tumor growth as we were and wasn't that sad and tragic and everything and then we would go to China Town for some so-so Chinese.  That's how it Always Worked.

I didn't believe the Different Doctor. But I didn't disbelieve him, either.  We were told the Real Doctor would call us later.  When he was done with brain surgery yada yada.  Like anything he could have been doing meant anything to me now that Different Doctor was making all sorts of ridiculous statements involving words like growing and surgery.

Jules didn't hear most of what the doctor said, but he'd heard enough.  I assured him that we hadn't even seen a Real Doctor, further confusing him.  Because I'm helpful in that way. 

"Hey, Mom.  Did you see me raise my eyebrows?" he asked with a little smirk.

"Yes, I did, and I was extremely proud," I answered.

This is one of our little private brain tumor jokes.  Does your family have private brain tumor jokes?  Surely you do.  Anyway - when Jules was 7 and first diagnosed, we saw lots of Different Doctors who were not the Real Doctor and one of them was a particular sort of A$$Hole Doctor and I particularly didn't like him for all sorts of particular reasons.  The first time he saw Jules, he asked him if he could raise his eyebrows.  In response, Jules did a whole lot of bizarre things with his ears, nose, mouth, and cheeks.  He also opened his eyes really wide, crossed his eyes, bulged his eyes....all sorts of neat-o tricks.  The eyebrows?  Remained stationary.  I was like, "What the heck, Jules?  Dude, RAISE YOUR EYEBROWS."  He stuck out his tongue. 

The doctor wrote down partial facial paralysis in Jules' Official Chart.

As soon as we got to the car I said, "I swear to god Jules, raise your freaking eyebrows."

He did. 

And that's the sort of nonsense I deal with on a regular basis.

We did go eat at our usual China Town establishment, and the owner who remembers us every year came over and talked with us.  He likes to talk basketball with Jeff, seeing as how the owner is a HUGE LAKERS FAN and Jeff HATES THE LAKERS.  They have a lot of fun.  He talked to us for so long that LA-Type-Of-People started looking at us and trying to figure out if we were Important.  The guys at the table next to us were making fun of Rick Perry.  I tried to hide any little lick of Texas accent I might have because dude, some things are just embarrassing.  And Rick Perry's one of them.

I didn't have much of an appetite.  We didn't leave China Town and do any of the fun things we normally do while in LA.  We didn't even drive around looking for Red Hot Chili Peppers promotional propaganda, even though it is everywhere right now.  We didn't even look for Actual Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Somehow, we just weren't in the mood this year.  We headed back to the hotel where Jules watched hours of History Channel shows - none of which were about history but many of which involved Rednecks of All Flavors wrestling or shooting alligators, trying to dislodge tree trunks, cutting down trees, or driving big rigs on icy roads. 

Normally, I wouldn't have trusted that the Real Doctor would even call back, because even though he is Real, he is still a Doctor.  But we were going to be attending my uncle's funeral and so I figured he'd call then - because sometimes Murphy's Laws trump Normal Doctor Behavior.  I was right.  So after the burial, we pulled into a convenience store and the Real Doctor said, "It's grown and I'll call you back tonight to discuss options."  He didn't waste a lot of breath on it, and we drove home in stunned silence. The rest of the day was rather long and consisted of me walking around with a phone stuffed into my bra...walking, walking, wandering around aimlessly, trying to focus.

It was 9:00 pm when he finally called.  And he was very sweet and awkward because we had him on speaker phone and awkwardness is a requirement for speaker phone etiquette.  I don't normally put anyone through the speaker phone experience, but these were extreme circumstances.

So we're looking at surgery next year.  Not this year.  And putting it off until next year fills me with both relief and hysteria.  Try to balance those two.  I dare you.

But all's good.  We're still one of the Lucky Families...we're painfully aware of that.  But we're also painfully aware of how we're not special and immune to disaster...we are, in fact, like Everybody Else.  Luckily, being like Everybody Else also means that after this brief time of feeling vulnerable and fragile, we'll go back to thinking we're special and immune to disaster.  That's human nature. 

I, personally, am really grateful for human nature.  It's going to kick in any day now...

Friday, July 29, 2011

This is Where The Cowboy Rides Away

My uncle died.  Alzheimer's is a horrible disease.  But then again, most of them are. Nobody dies from a pleasant disease, now do they?

Uncle Gene was a cowboy.  Not the kind who rode in trail rides along the highway on the weekends; the kind without any cows and a police escort bringing up the rear.   And not the kind who lived on a 25-Acre "Ranchette" that he managed from the seat of a tractor the rest of us would readily identify as a lawnmower.

My uncle was a Real Cowboy.  As in, that's what he did for a living.

 Just like his daddy before him. 
Alzheimer's took him, too.
Here's my grandfather with my mom.  Alzheimer's took her, too.  I was pregnant with Jasper, at the time.

My uncle was also a daddy.  This little baby on the back of the horse is my older cousin.  It was great to see my cousins.  It's one of those situations with us where we really only see each other at funerals.  Which is sad.  Our lives are all so busy.  Which is ridiculous.

I used to visit my cousins on the ranch were they lived.  My uncle managed Big Ranches....the kind where herds are now rounded up via helicopters.  I loved visiting and playing with my favorite cousin, Gene Anne, and pretending I was a country girl.  I wasn't exactly a city girl, you see...I was a Tiny Texas Town girl...but we lived in a neighborhood with a driveway and gangs of kids riding banana-seat bicycles.  It was very quiet where my cousins lived, and there were exciting challenges like cattle guards, barbed wire fences, and of course, rattlesnakes.

Watch out for the tall grass, girls, he'd say as we walked.  There's rattlers out.  Here now, I'll go first and y'all follow me.  I'll wake 'im up...the next one of you will make 'im mad, and well, whoever goes last can deal with angry SOB. 

On our heals was always his blue-eyed cowdog, Son.  Son was his nickname, of course.  His full name was SonuvaBitch.  He was occasionally referred to by his full name, usually when he'd done something stupid.

Sometimes he'd let us go with him to feed cattle.  Y'all mind the truck, he'd say as he got out.  The truck was still running, of course.  Driving ahead very slowly through the pasture, all by itself, with me and my cousin sitting in the front seat while my uncle hopped in the bed and rolled out salt licks or hay. This was all great fun to me.

Sometimes I was a little bit afraid of my uncle.  He was gigantically tall.  In fact, I once snagged my cheek on his belt buckle during a goodbye hug.  He could give us what my sister called...the crazy eye.  He'd cock his hat back on his head and a raise up a single eyebrow and say, What did you say?  To which we'd invariably reply, Oh nuthin'.  No matter what we'd said.  'Cause that look could knock the air out of you.

Sometimes when he raised that eyebrow he wanted to know what we were up to.  And usually we weren't up to anything but man, it sure felt like we'd been caught under that steely gaze.  And sometimes he'd raise that eyebrow and go to ask a question and we'd be all ready to say, No sir! but then he'd say, Y'all want some ice cream?  And it would take a minute for us to recover and switch to Yes sir! 

When I was a teenager I discovered something cool about my uncle:  He knew stuff.  Lots of stuff!  And if you had the patience to withstand the raised eyebrow and the tilted hat and the long periods of considerin' this and that....he had a lot to say.  Wow! Who knew!  I guess I fell in love with him in my teens.

My uncle loved to fish.  Mostly he fished in rivers and cattle tanks and ponds and such.  But my dad introduced him to saltwater fishing and man oh man, but he liked that a lot.  My dad would be all decked out on his Boston Whaler with his leather, rubber soled deck shoes and his fishing hat and shorts...some sort of t-shirt...and my uncle would come aboard as if it were any other dull Sunday and time to feed the cows.  Hat, long-sleeved shirt with pockets and the cuffs Not Rolled Up but buttoned  On the deck of the boat.  My dad complained about the boots on the boat deck until my uncle finally bought a pair of sneakers.  The first time I saw him wear them I laughed hysterically.  I mean, I couldn't stop.  It was just so weird.

My mom took this picture of him fishing on the boat in the back bays of Port O'Connor.

My uncle taught me to 2-Step.  He took us to dance halls....the kind with sawdust on the floor and a band on the stage...the kind of band with a steel guitar and a fiddle.  He was so tall!  You'd think it would have been hard for a shortie like me to dance with him.  But it wasn't.  He was so smooth it was like we were floating...floating and twirling.  He was always the best lookin' cowboy on the dance floor, at least in my opinion, and the best everybody's opinion.

I grew up and went to college and got all kinds of busy.  And then I got married and had kids and a job and got all kinds of even more busy.  And so I didn't see him, anymore.  And then my mom got sick...and he got sick...and I got all kinds of busy with my mom.  Then my mom died, and I was all kinds of sad and yet all kinds of relieved from the stress of Alzheimers and so I didn't go see my uncle.  I thought about him.  He was my favorite uncle...mysterious and handsome and a mind that never stopped...and so I didn't want to go see him when I knew all of what made him my uncle was slipping away.  I wish I had, of course.  But at the time, I just couldn't muster it.

We're not a religious family (have I mentioned that before?).  There was a graveside service.  It was deathly hot but nobody complained.  My eyes caught the glint of a silver and turquoise belt buckle as  my cheek rubbed against a 100% polyester suit complete with a western yolk as I was embraced by a man named Chili.  You remember me Carol Ann?  Because you don't call a person by their first name only.  My mom called me Carol Ann.  Even when she wasn't mad.

There were flowers and tears.  The picture at the top of the blog sat next to the casket.  I looked at it.  With my uncle, still waters ran deep.  I knew him as my Cowboy Uncle...but beneath that there was a man that I didn't really know.  I think, I'd have liked that man, with all his faults, just as well. 

There was noise from a nearby construction rudely marches on even in the middle of a cowboy's burial.  There was a preacher who was sweet as peaches but couldn't remember my uncle's name to save his soul.  There were my kids, politely bowing their heads...hugging people they didn't know...amazed that this was somehow a part of their story, as well...these hats and buckles and mustaches and soft-spoken people.

We left the tent and the coffin and the cousins....with promises to get together soon....and I really hope we do.

Here's George Strait and this song's for my Uncle Gene.  It's an old video...looks like Austin City Limits, maybe? 

I wish I could have had one last dance before the cowboy rode away.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It's Clearly Fundamental

We were in Los Angeles when the attacks happened.  And the first thing I thought was, "Who the hell hates NORWAY??"  I was sitting in the cafeteria at St. Vincent's Hospital and saw TERROR ATTACKS IN NORWAY!!  I was interested (wouldn't find out the specific horrendous details for quite some time because even though it was a big monumental event - I was sitting in a hospital because my kid has a brain tumor so everything's relative and Norway is Really Far Away).  But I was puzzled by it.  Who would attack Norway?  I just couldn't see a Big Operative Plan involving Norway.  I'm an American, after all.  So I consider other countries, especially physically small ones, to be rather unworthy of Big Attacks. 

So, who attacked Norway?  Was it a Muslim Extremist Group?  I mean, they used the word TERROR and everything. So it must be a Muslim Extremist Group.  It was a Norwegian Right-Wing Christian Fundamentalist.  Now before you think I'm going to go all Liberalie Hippie Dippie on you (which I kind of am), let me just say I'm One Of You.  If you're a hypocrite, that is.  If you're not a hypocrite...good for you.  I'd prefer most people be Just Like Me, which is just one of the ways in which I'm a hypocrite.  Anyway - let me 'fess up.  While standing in the security line at LAX, Jules and I were looking around.  And over against the wall, a Very Angry Looking Middle-Eastern Sort of Individual, in Full Middle-Eastern Sort of Garb, was being held up, detained, whatever you want to call it.  He had been pulled to the side and they were calling for other Security Personnel, etc. and everyone was kind of glancing back at him repeatedly.  Now I felt all indignant and outraged for this fellow. That's racial profiling!! I thought.  And immediately following that thought was this one: Jesus Christ, I hope he doesn't get on my plane.  **He did...last guy on...having been detained and all...and we didn't blow up.

The Right-Wing Christian Fundamentalist Terrorist Suspect (yes! I said it again! 'cause that's what he is!) looks like a movie star.  Seriously, have you seen his picture?  Why does he have an Actual Head Shot?  Do all Norwegians have Glamour Shots Photos of themselves if they're not teenage girls or members of the Actors Guild?  Is that a Norwegian thing?  I know so little of Norway.  As I said, I'm American and I'm not much concerned with places that are Not America. Anyway, the Right-Wing Christian Fundamentalist Terrorist Suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, is perfect for the part.  I mean, if you were going to cast a Bad Guy in a 007 Movie, and this guy's head shot turned up on your desk, you'd be like, "This is our bad guy! I don't even care if he can act!"  Seriously.  He is the Icy Cold Sharp-Shooting Norwegian Bad Guy.  Only, this wasn't a movie.  This was for real.  And my heart is breaking for that country, and especially for the families of the slain teenagers.  Because in the end, it all comes down to individual tragedies.  I got that as I sat in the cafeteria of St. Vincent's Hospital, looking at my own teenager, who was sound asleep with his head resting in his arms on the table, his hospital bracelet peeking out from under his cheek.

It is hard to understand why a crazy person does something.  It is nonsensical.  But whenever the words Extreme and Fundamentalist are in the equation, you have the potential for Extreme and Fundamental Nastiness.  Now then, I know that this attack was politically motivated, but part of his political problem is that his religion doesn't allow for the Muslim immigration that is going on in his country.  Or his view of his religion, anyway. I bet that every time I say Right-Wing Christian Fundamentalist, all my Christian buddies are cringing.  I don't blame you one bit.  And you're (rightfully so) wanting to yell at me through the blog and say,  Hey! We're not all like that!  In fact, VERY FEW of us are like that!  He is EXTREME!!  He is crazy! He doesn't represent the rest of us and our peaceful beliefs and our good deeds!!

And you'd be right if you're wanting to yell that at me.  And most people are going to agree with you.  Even non-religious people, for the most part, are going to readily admit that terrorism isn't what Christianity is all about.  This guy is clearly a fringe-nutter who totally doesn't "get" Christianity. 

Now then, what if this guy weren't a good-looking blond with icy hard eyes?  What if he were Middle Eastern, and was identified as an Extreme Muslim Fundamentalist?  And what if the Muslim Community in...oh, I don't know....let's say New York....were to say, Hey! We're not all like that! In fact, VERY FEW of us are like that! He is EXTREME!! He is crazy! He doesn't represent the rest of us and our peaceful beliefs and our good deeds!!  He clearly doesn't "get" Islam.

Would most people readily agree and nod their heads, much as we're all doing in the case of this latest Christian Fundamentalist Terror Attack, or would we maybe boycott the building of new mosques within a certain distance of the attack? 

Now don't go all crazy on me.  I understand that we haven't had any Right-Wing Fundamentalist Christian Terrorist Attacks here in the US except for Timothy McVeigh, a self-proclaimed Christian who was convicted and executed for the Oklahoma City Bombings. Oh well, actually, after a brief google I've discovered that presumption is wrong.  The Southern Poverty Law Center lists over 90 attacks or planned attacks by Right Wing Extremists, and if you begin to individually google the perpetrators and accused perpetrators you quickly see a Christian trend developing.  Yet, nobody is afraid of Christians.  Even though the KKK wasn't out burning Stars of David and McVeigh wasn't carrying a copy of the Koran. Nobody is boycotting the building of new churches.  Including me. 

Because that would be wrong. 

But it wouldn't be wrong because this is a Christian nation.  It would be wrong because this is a democratic nation. Now then, I hear some of you starting up about this being a Christian nation founded on Christian principles and let me just say this: If this IS a Christian nation, what are we to do with all the non-Christians currently living, voting, serving in office, and serving in the military?  Where are we going to bury this guy?

What are we to do with these people?  Just let them continue living, voting, serving in office, and serving in the military out of Christian Charity??  Or should we do as some Christians wish?  Ever heard of DominionismJust sayin'. 

And seriously.  If we got rid of the non-Christians, wouldn't you guys miss the hell out of me?  And Steven Spielberg?  And the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Because founding guitarist Hillel Slovak was also known affectionately as the Israeli Cowboy. Don't you love it how I can slip RHCP factoids in on basically Any Discussion? And don't you just want to say to the Dominionists....Come on, people.  THINK.  Your cardiologist is probably Jewish. As was/is JESUS HIMSELF.   

While we're speaking of Religious Extremism and Fundamentalism and its Propensity to Lead to Violence Within and Among the Three Monotheistic Faiths ('cause that is what we're speaking of), can I just say that the Big 3 seem to be the most troublesome?  The 3 Monotheistic Faiths seem to be the ones In The News.  When is the last time Pagans attacked anybody?

I think it is that whole One God Idea that is the problem.  It seems great in theory.  But if there's Just The One, (I love this title for God, by the way.  I picture a Jewish God...much like that picture I have of my great-grandfather rabbi in Russia...long-bearded and God-like...and he's waving his hand and smiling modestly and saying...I'm Just The One...) Anyway, He's Just The One and He's got to divide His attention among this case, among the Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and if you're a warm and fuzzy religious person you're even thinking he is paying attention to The Others, as well, like little old Sardine Mama over here.  And I can totally relate to His predicament.  I most surely can.  Because even Sardine Mama is overwhelmed by her children and accused of playing favorites from time to time.  But so far, no Actual Explosions have resulted.  You get my drift, though, don't you?

It seems we have a fundamental (scary word) problem.  And it is simply this:  We can't all be right.  And if we are all right (like the feel-good tree-hugging type of hippie Christians say we are) - then what does being right even mean? It means that we can all choose our own Truth and believe in it, and at the same time, acknowledge everyone else's right to their own Truth.  But that idea, while very lovely and sweet and warm and fuzzy - doesn't really make much sense.  Believing in All Truths pretty much negates Any Truth.  Which is why most religious people reject that idea and stick with the I'm Right and You're Wrong idea.  And then?  A very small percentage of them....a minuscule percentage, actually....begin stockpiling explosives and weapons. 

It's a problem.  And I certainly don't know the solution.  But might I ask that while you pray for the victims of Norway and their families, that you also consider...just for a moment...the fact that some of the folks praying with you are Crazier Than Hell?

Be Aware.  They tend to look perfectly normal. 

I promise not to blog about religion for awhile.  I realize it can be considered rude in some circles.  And blogging, the word itself, sounds rather rude, doesn't it?  Like something you should say Excuse me after.  So if you combine blogging with a religious discussion, it could be misconstrued as doubly rude. And I'm just a Southern Girl, after all.  Sipping on a Mint Julip and gently fanning myself in this Effing Triple Digit Heat that is part of a Natural Warming Trend and not Anything To Be Alarmed About.

And now I'd like to end with this.  Because another tragedy occurred over the weekend - having nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the demon of addiction. God, how I'll miss Amy Winehouse. This isn't my favorite Winehouse song - but I love the video because it shows many sides of Amy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie and the Awesomeness of a Fleet Foxes Funeral Finale with a Bit of Frusciante For Good Measure

Looking back over the past few blog entries, I see that I've tackled:

1. Politics (if Sarah Palin Entertainment can be counted as Actual Politics and unfortunately, I think it can).

2. Impermanence

3. Attachment Parenting and the Fostering of Independence

4. Religion

Don't you think it's time I drop all the fluffy unsubstantial blogging for something REALLY important? And judging from the title of this blog post, which is probably the longest blog post title ever in the history of blog post titles, can you see that I'm about to talk about something monumentally imporant? Like...oh, I don't know...The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie? Yes, my Sardine the brand spanking new Red Hot Chili Peppers single was released.  It is a few days earlier than expected, so boo-yah! Sardine Mama woke up to an unexpected pleasant surprise instead of the kinds of surprises she's used to waking up to, which are more of the I think I'm gonna throw up! variety.  Or the Jasper just dumped an entire gallon of milk on the floor! variety.  Or the Mom!! I have to be at work in five minutes!! variety.

You can listen to the single, if you want.  But you don't have to.  You and I don't have to be on the same page for EVERYTHING, after all.  Or anything, for that matter.

I do not count myself a citizen of the Insane Chili Peppers Community. I'm not one the millions of (surprisingly young) people who spend hours commenting on discussion boards.  The threads on these boards have titles like Will Anthony Shave His Mustache? It seems that there are a lot of people very concerned about the Chili Peppers front man's facial hair.  Like REALLY CONCERNED.  They're all rolling around on the floor in orgasmic bliss right now because of this single.  Unfortunately, I am not in any kind of orgasmic anything that I know of.  But I am really excited.  But not as excited as the Crazy Fans on the Discussion Boards.  I love it that I'm not as crazy as they are.  There is a Them (crazy fans) and there is a Me (normal fan) and there is a rock solid line between us.  I mean, after all, I don't spend hours commenting about Anthony's mustache.  I just spend hours reading the comments about Anthony's mustache.  This clearly makes me Normal.  Clearly. Normal. Look it up.

Anyway, I am thrilled and excited and after listening to it 40 or 50 times, I have decided to come out in favor of The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.  It's catchy.  But it's missing something.  And his name is John Frusciante.  John, my favorite Pepper, is not in the band anymore.  He's been replaced by a fine young man named Josh Klinghoffer. And I'm like totally cool with that.  I am.  Not. Really. Cool. With. That.  Because even though I claim not to be obsessed with the Chili Peppers?  I must admit to a somewhat casual no big deal or anything like that very small and tiny little obsession with Frusciante. 

I have a small little tendency towards ridiculous obsessions.  I have a small little tendency towards not really grasping the idea of moderation. You know, I couldn't just have one or two kids, I had to have five!  I couldn't just homeschool, I had to unschool! I couldn't just breastfeed a baby, I had to breastfeed toddlers! That's the Sardine Mama you know and love (or are at least mildly curious about)....but my All Or Nothing personality doesn't stop at parenting.  Unfortunately.  Let's just say it's a good thing I never did Real Drugs.  I can't just casually like a band, product, person, or philosophy.  I wish I could.  Casual Liking, it seems, would take up far less time that Complete Devotion.

So I'm devoted to Frusciante.  Everybody needs a hobby.

Fortunately for me, I do have a Fellow Frusciante Buddy...and fortunately for me, I'm married to him.  And fortunately for me, he often plays John's songs on his guitar.  I don't think Jeff's interest in Frusciante extends to where he was last seen and what he was wearing, as does mine (even though I'm not crazy).  But still, he appreciates him.  I'm thinking a lack of appreciation for Frusciante would have been a deal-breaker for me.

My kids? Do not appreciate Frusciante.  In fact, I'm pretty sure they're a little bit jealous.  Like, who do you love more, Mom?  Me or John Frusciante?  Before you become alarmed by this, let me just say that I hardly even had to think about it.

John has crazed fans.  I'm not even in the same universe as some of these people, many of whom claim he is Jesus. He has just sometimes looked like Jesus, which is clearly not the same thing as BEING Jesus.

He has also, at times, looked a bit like Edward Scissorhands, and he currently looks like a cross between Ben Stein and Grizzy Adams.  None of his looks (and he's had so many) define him.  He's undefinable.

Many claim to be in love with him.  They want to marry him, have his babies blah, blah, blah.  I am NOT THAT OBSESSED.  I do admit to a 1:00 pm John Adoration Hour where I like to watch videos...but that's not EVERY DAY.  It's only the days that I'm home at 1:00. I'm not in love with him, I don't want to marry him, and I certainly don't want to have his babies.  I'm just his soul mate.  That's all.

I would like to hang out and be his muse.  Don't you think I would be a good muse?  I could inspire him to write beautiful music.  Because don't you think I'm inspiring?  He might also find me amusing.  Ha! Did you get that?  I made like a little pun-thing....aMUSE....get it?  I'd be an awesome muse.  Unless, of course, he'd want to be like writing music All The Time. Like, spending hours and hours locked away being all boring and writing music.  After awhile, I think I would cease to be amusing and start to be needy.  I'd be all like Come TALK to me....I'm feeling LONELY....You don't pay enough ATTENTION to me.... I have been known to be um...emotionally needy (at times).  And if I weren't all emotionally needy, I'm afraid I'd become physically needy, and John would be all like trying to write a song and I'd be all like, John, I'm hungry...fix me a sandwich!! Can't you see how well that would work out?  See why he needs me?  Let's see....what was I saying?  Oh yeah.  About how I'm perfectly normal and Not Like Those Other Fans who are clearly Not Perfectly Normal.  Like I am.  Normal. Ahem...

I have most of John's solo albums.  And I like to listen to them in the car but I have to FIGHT FOR MY RIGHT to listen to John Frusciante.  Sometimes we Rock/Paper/Scissors for it.  Rock, paper, scissors!  I win, Mom! Taylor Swift it is!  Whenever Camille wins it is either Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber.  I'd prefer a little Beiber, myself.  But Camille sure loves Taylor.  When she hands me the CD, I say, "What do you say?"  And Camille says, "I don't need a boy to make me happy!" That's right. I refuse to pop in the Don't Leave Me Alone or Break Up With Me or I'll Die a Thousand Deaths-themed CD until Camille has recited this particular mantra.  Sometimes she decides to be a smart ass and says, "You don't need John to make you happy, Mom!" And then I say, "Yes, I do. Mommy has reached middle-age and she's not at all comfortable with that and loving John makes it more bearable and adds meaning to my life and I'm entitled to a little joy, after all, and...." and then she walks off.  See? All. Completely. Normal.Over. Here.

Joel can't stand the Chili Peppers.  He says By the Way, in particular, reminds him of childhood family vacations, which I thought were all pretty swell but apparently give Joel nightmares.  Whatever. He doesn't have much of an opinion about John one way or the other.  But he supports my right to my obsession.  When you die, Mom, I'm gonna have you cremated and sprinkle your ashes on Frusciante's lawn.  Then you can become a PART OF HIS LAWN.  No wait!  I'll sprinkle your ashes on his George Foreman Grill and you can become a PART OF HIS STEAK and he'll eat you and you'll become a PART OF JOHN FRUSCIANTE.  You'll freaking BECOME John Frusciante. 

I think he's teasing but it is a lovely idea. 

Speaking of when I die (because I don't know if you noticed but it seems I've subtly changed the subject), Joel and I have Big Plans for my funeral.  I have a Funeral Play List and it is Rocking Awesome and it is a shame I won't be there to hear it.  One of the songs that shall be played at my massively impressive funeral attended by thousands is Fleet Foxes' Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.  It is SO DANG BEAUTIFUL.

Joel and I were discussing it and I was like, "Just picture in the coffin....this song playing beautifully and everyone crying and weeping, but wait a minute...Joel, dude, you know we have to cut that song off before he gets to the end where he says, "I'm turning myself to a demon," because that would be inappropriate, in a way, and you know, quite possibly upset the church-goers amongst my fans..ahem...I mean, the people who have come to my funeral."

And then Joel is like, "Oh no, Mom! That would be AWESOME. I'll tie some invisible strings to you and when it gets to that part of the song I'll pull on the strings and you can SIT UP IN THE COFFIN."

I must admit, this idea does hold a small amount of appeal for me. It would almost be worth dying for. Listen to the song and tell me you don't agree.

Well, this was another one of those posts where Sardine Mama revealed just a tad too much about herself and lost a couple of followers, but whatever.  It's my blog, after all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm worse than a Tax Collector? Really?

So, I'm trying not to let this thing bother me.  It's a little thing.  A little thing that was done with no thoughts about me.  A little thing that was not intentional...certainly not done to hurt me or upset me in any way.  I'm usually pretty good about not taking offense where none was intended.  Life's too short to get your feelings hurt when nobody was even out to hurt them, right?  Life's too short to get your feelings hurt by something that was done thoughtlessly. 

I'm quite certain that I hurt people or offend people thoughtlessly.  I'd apologize, because I hate to be responsible for bringing negativity on someone else, but you can't apologize if you don't know.  That's the frustrating thing about thoughtlessness. It's just like insanity.  If you freaking KNEW you were being insane, you'd stop, but that's not how crazy works.  People who are crazy don't know it. And people who are thoughtless don't know it.  If they knew it, that would imply thought, which would thereby take them out of the Thoughtless category altogether, moving them on over to the Intentionally Mean category.

I don't think I'm hurt by this unintentional thing that was done.  I mean, it was done by someone I don't even know.  By someone who doesn't know me. There's no target on my head - nobody is being mean "to" me or anybody else.Yet, I'm bothered.  Annoyed.  Pondering. Ugh, and probably a little hurt, after all.  Because this has to do with children.  Inadvertently, with my children.

Here's the situation:
I moderate an inclusive homeschooling list.  I'd say about 99% of the members are Christian.  If you put Texas and Homeschooling together you get Christian Families. So to me, it makes sense that if you are Christian and you have your choice of ninety billion Christian homeschooling groups - and you choose to join the only inclusive group in the area to join - you are saying, "Hey, I'm Christian. But I don't care if you're not.  I don't care if your kids aren't religious.  We joined an inclusive group and we freaking EXPECTED to meet a few non-Christians and we're cool with that."

Now before I get to the actual little incident that's nagging at me, let me just say that most of the co-ops and organized activities that are discussed on this list are Christian in nature.  They'll say things like, "We're going to be using Christian themed lessons, or a Christian Worldview, or Evolution Will Not Be Discussed...." yada yada.  And that's okay, right? Because the next person might post that their group is going to be doing things from a Buddhist perspective.  That's what inclusive IS.  Of course, I've yet to see that happen...the Buddhist thing...but people know that it could happen, and wouldn't say anything if it did.  The groups that post are letting you know what you're going to get if you decide to attend so you're not surprised and uncomfortable once you get there. There are non-religious families doing things with religious groups within this inclusive list, believe me.  And it's not a problem. I personally do not attend these types of groups/events because they do tend to make me uncomfortable and I can do my socializing with the Christians in settings where it's the things we have in common that have drawn us together (of which there are usually plenty), and not the things that might tend to separate us. 

Last week someone posted an announcement that seemed different to me....a little out of place for an inclusive group....even though definitely acceptable according to our guidelines because hey, we have to include them, right?  Even if it's an openly exclusive group.

A woman posted a message about a teen homeschooling group.  It was a long message of the We're Going to Have So Much Fun!! variety.  She listed the things they'd be doing and they did, indeed, sound like typical fun teenager-ish things to do.  The types of things my kids and their friends do.  And even though I wasn't really interested in the group, because quite frankly, we've just got enough to do and enough people to do it with, I still became....offended? Irritated?  Hurt?...when the message ended with something along the lines of..."There is no statement of faith but..."

Ahhh...the But.  If you're unfamiliar with what a statement of faith is, it is a line that people have to sign or verbally agree with that usually states that the person signing or agreeing accepts Jesus Christ as his or her lord and savior.  Sometimes more detail is given as to EXACTLY what it means to accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior.  In case you were under the impression you had done so but had still missed the mark in some not understanding the terms "lord" or "savior" in the context of Christianity.  In case you've just been walking around mistaken about the whole thing (something I actually did for several years). 

Anyway, so people sign these things, and sometimes...if the group or association is big enough or organized enough to have really cool activities...well, I know a few people who sign the statement even though they don't agree with it.  Personally, I've got no problem with this.  Camille is a Scientologist, after all.  *Long story but let's just say it involves vaccinations and her desire to participate in a group activity that required her being vaccinated and did you know you can actually download a form stating that you don't vaccinate for religious reasons?  See?  I'm not kidding.  I've got no qualms.  Also?  Not that it's any of your business but there are specific reasons why Camille is not vaccinated and she's no danger to your kid if your kid is vaccinated because DUH your kid has been vaccinated so BACK OFF. 

Oh my, that's what Sardine Mama sounds like when she gets a bit, where were we?

Oh yeah.  The woman who posted her exclusive activity on the inclusive homeschooling list...she's going on and on about how much fun they're going to have doing all kinds of non-religious types of activities like movies, parties, swimming, skating, games...and then states that there's no statement of faith but only families with Jesus in their hearts should attend. In other words, what she's saying is:  No Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Unitarians, Buddhists, Hindus or Atheists (and in some cases, depending on the particular brand of Christianity and why a statement of faith is sometimes Catholics or Mormons) need apply.

Is it just me, or do you think Jesus is offended? I think he's offended. I mean, My God (literally), if this dude sat down with prostitutes and the dreaded tax collectors, don't you think he could stomach a few sardine teenagers at the skating rink?  And, if the stories about him are true, don't you think he WOULD? Like...joyfully?

WHY is this bothering me?  WHY do I care?  I'll tell you why.  Because I have 3 great non-religious teenagers.  I have 3 teenagers who will not make fun of you, talk behind your back, or exclude you even if you have this syndrome/disorder or that. They will not be unkind in any way.  I have 3 teenagers who go out of their way to include kids who might be a little different or quirky, who have been raised by the Golden Rule, and who understand what it means to be a friend, even during stormy adolescent times.  And they're somehow...what..not good enough to hang with these guys?  Not Christian enough. 

What does it mean to bowl as a Christian?  Do Christians bowl, skate, or play Monopoly differently than us? Well, I guess apparently some of them do.  Some of them do it exclusively, with their backs turned and their circles closed.  And that just doesn't seem very...Christian. And yet?  I expect it more from the Christians than I do the non-religious.  I have yet to meet a non-religious homeschooling family that excludes religious families from entering their social circles.  And yet it's the religious folks who own the market on Good and Kind.  Doesn't make much sense, does it?

You might say that parents have the right (and they do) to protect children from dangerous outside influences.  They have the right to protect their children from secular folks who might not subscribe to the same values.  Because we all know that the Christian Stamp means Good People, right?

Well, I don't think most parents are actually trying to protect their kids from Bad People as much as they're trying to protect them from considering that maybe not all non-Christians are bad...or that not all Christians are good.  That's really why they don't want their kids hanging out with mine.  What if their kids like mine?  What if their kids decide my kids are (gulp) good and decent even though they don't have Jesus in their hearts? What if they're forced to actually think about how a good and decent friend who they like a lot is DOOMED to eternal damnation?  And what if they do think about it and it doesn't make sense? And if that doesn't make sense, what if they start to think about other things and decide they don't make sense? What if they become actively engaged in discerning what their spirituality means and how they wish to apply it to their lives?

Okay.  Never mind.  I get it and she's right.  This could lead to all kinds of crazy sh*t. She really shouldn't let her kids skate with mine.  It could end Christianity as She Knows It.

Now if you're a Religious Type or the Church-Going President of the Sardines in a Can Fan need to comment that Not All Christians Are Like That. I know that already. Most of my friends are religious and obviously, they're not like that.  I get you. I understand you.  I don't always agree with you but I know where you're coming from and it's generally a pretty good place.  No need to defend the faith unless you just really want to, in which case you're completely entitled and feel free to have at it.

I feel much better now. Thanks for listening.
Signing Off as A Non-Christian But Pretty Decent Sort Anyway Sardine Mama

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fostering Independence on Independece Day: But First - A Couple of Stories!

Well, that last post was a tearjerker, if I do say so myself.  I've had some requests for Funny.  "Be funny!" y'all say. 

The funny thing is, I don't currently feel like being funny.  I'm not blah blah depressed or anything, but I'm wanting to talk about thoughts I've been having, lately.  Thoughts about how children and teens are treated within our society, and how the ways in which they are treated are directly at odds with how we wish them to behave.  But then I'm not being funny, am I? Sometimes Sardine Mama is funny, sometimes she's inspirational, and sometimes she's Just Plain Smart - but who likes a smart ass?  Not me.  But still, I'm going to go all smart on you in a minute.  But first I must deal with the funny business you people demand.

Since I seem to be all out of humorous musings, I'll go with good old-fashioned storytelling, instead.  As in, A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way To....

You see, yesterday, I unintentionally shed panties in the parking lot of the local grocery store.  How is that, you ask?  Are you laughing?  For me, it was more embarrassing than funny, but go ahead and laugh at my expense.  It's what I'm here for.

How does one unintentionally shed panties in public?  Well, if one wakes up the morning after a late night out at The Cove during Pridefest...and one hastily bends over and picks up the very cute and not as tight as they used to be (yes! i've lost some weight!) dark denim capris from the bathroom floor, and then puts those dark denim capris on to run to the grocery store without checking those dark denim capris for the stray panties that are wadded up inside them, one runs the risk of having those panties from the night before fall out the bottom of the capris to land upon one's foot while one is in the middle of the crosswalk leading from the parking lot into the grocery store.  One might or might not accidentally kick the panties up into the air while strolling, just in case the guys sitting in their pickups at the crosswalk failed to see the panties fall out in the first place.  Then one might say to oneself, "What the hell is that and where did it come from?" And then one might recognize the item as one's very own pair of panties from the night before and feel compelled to snatch them up and act like shedding panties through the leg of one's capris is a perfectly normal thing to dropping one's keys.  "Oopsie!" one might say as she bends over to retrieve the fluttering panties.  "Clumsy me!"  Then one would have two options:

a) Stuff panties in purse and continue into the store.

b) Take panties back to the minivan.

In the spirit of needing a little recovery time, I suggest one choose the second option, whereby one could hope to collect herself and regain one's composure before heading back into the store for a gallon of milk.  Once one has properly collected oneself and headed back into the store for a gallon of milk, one should try to avoid getting sucked into the belief that there are possibly still an infinite number of panties waiting to drop out the leg holes of one's dark denim capris. One should not become fixated on the possibility that there might be panties creeping out the waistband and down the legs of the the dark denim capris, or out the arm and neck holes of one's t-shirt.  One shouldn't do that because then one will find it difficult to focus on the expiration dates on the milk jugs.

OK - well, if you didn't laugh at that you probably cringed.  I actually did both.

It reminded me of a High School Incident (and I'm having dejavu at the moment - so either I'm still sufficiently traumatized or I've already shared this on the blog). Anyway, here is my High School Boy, Was My Face Red! story.  Because the recent Panties in the Parking Lot Incident wasn't quite enough. I was sitting in Geometry, and I reached into my purse to retrieve a hairbrush. I firmly believed that brushing my hair during Geometry increased the blood flow to my brain, which had become completely numb about one and a half minutes into Geometry.  So I yanked out my brush (I fully intended to apply make-up right there in my seat when I was done with the brushing ritual) and began brushing my hair.  The boy next to me watched me and I assumed it was because my Hot Sexiness was thawing his geometry-numbed brain.  Only he didn't really look turned on.  He looked curious initially, and then slightly mortified.  I continued brushing.  I had really thick hair so I only kind of felt the light little tapping of a something or other as it hit my head with each stroke.  Whatever could that be? I wondered.  And then I saw the something or other out of the corner of my eye.  It was white-ish....tubular shaped....and attached to a string that was hung up in the bristles of my brush.  That's right, people.  I was repeatedly smacking myself in the head with a tampon in front of a classroom full of kids who would have watched ANYTHING....absolutely ANYTHING...over the Geometry lecture.  This was way more than any of them could have possibly hoped for in the way of a distraction.  I still occasionally see that boy...he always grins.  I think he's a grandfather now.

Okay - have your funny bones been tickled enough?  Now let me get on with my Important Thoughts.

I don't think I realized, until recently, how much independence we give our kids compared to Most Kids.  I don't think I realized just how much more freedom they have than Many Kids.  I don't think I realized how much faith and confidence we bestow on and have in them, compared to Lots of Other Kids.

We don't speak for our kids, unless one of them is going through the I'll Whisper What I Want You To Say For Me stage.  If one of them is in that stage, we fully cooperate with that tag-team form of communication. Almost all of our kids have been at that stage at one point or another and I see nothing wrong with helping them express themselves over their shyness.  Anyway - I'm OT, as they say.  Off-topic. 

What I'm not used to is parents of teens speaking for them.  Not really FOR them, either, as in, "My child would like me to express this for him..."  I'm talking "this is what I want to express for my child."  And that's totally different.

I recently volunteered at a piano competition for Ellie.  I simply registered pianists, telling them what time they played, asking for music, making sure their measures were numbered, etc.  And in only ONE CASE did I actually talk to the teen pianist.  The parents were the ones who came up to the desk, signed their kid in, flipped through the music to check measures, etc.  Their teens stood behind / beside them, appearing either disinterested or frightened to death.  I didn't talk to them.  I talked to their parents.  It was strange to me.  I could no more have checked Ellie in at her own room than I could have taken Joel's Black Belt test for him.  I didn't know what music she was playing, the order in which she was playing it, or whether or not her measures were numbered.  And even if I did know all of that, I would still expect her to be the one to check herself in.  She needs to hear the information, she needs to be able to ask any questions she might just never occurred to me to do it for her. 

The strange thing is, Attachment Parenting is often confused with Helicopter Parenting. What people don't understand is that we're not hoverers.  We're really not.  We're Emotional and Physical Need-Meeters. The acronym for that is EPNM....which is lame.  If someone wants to come up with a better title and accompanying acronym I am All For It.  Get to work on that, would you?

Anyway, we attempt to meet the needs of and give legitimacy to our kids in infancy and beyond because it fosters independence.  They are in charge of identifying their needs.  Not me.  Who am I to argue with you if you say you're not hungry?  Who argues with me if I say I'm not hungry or I don't feel like sleeping or I'm not really interested in continuing to learn about tarot cards?  Nobody.  So why do parents feel the need to tell their kids things like, "yes, you are hungry - it's dinner time!" or "you can't quit soccer simply because you don't like it! then you're a quitter!  for the rest of your life! i'd rather you develop an intense fear of trying new things!"

Sheesh.  Anyway,  honoring their needs, even if what they needed was to sleep with us for comfort, or continue breastfeeding, or whatever it is that they wanted/needed to do....all of the things that made them look possibly clingy to people who didn't get it, just ensured that they felt worthy of having their needs met.  That's a Huge Thing.  Think about it.  I'm worthy of the things I need. I believe in the legitimacy of the things I need.

Truth be told, I don't have that level of confidence about myself.  I wish I did. 

Kids who are Attachment Parented learn how to express their needs with the complete expectation that value will be placed upon those needs.  It means they can look adults in the eye and speak to them with the knowledge that they deserve to be heard.  Likewise (and here's the part where those of you who believe this results in egocentric and bratty kids lose your leg to stand on), they firmly believe that everyone else also deserves to be heard and that their needs also have value.  Bingo.  Do you realize how many of society's perceived ills are solved with this simple idea of giving worth and value to the needs of your children? Oops! I think I got off-topic again. 

Here's the incident I'm working towards:

Yesterday I had to attend a Parent Meeting for a music festival Ellie's participating in.  There are only five kids in this group, and they spent an hour and a half telling us things that only the participants needed to know.  And yet, the other parents were intensely interested and involved in this meeting.  With the exception of one young man (the only other homeschooler), none of the kids said a word during the entire thing (I'm sure that will change - they all hardly knew each other at this point - and Ellie really didn't say anything, either).  But what I'm getting at is, the parents spoke for their children, and about their children, as if they weren't sitting right there next to them.  At one point in the meeting, the leaders talked to the teens about how they would be attending many receptions with artists and patrons and how they should Speak To The Adults at these events.  Like this was a really Big Concept.  They told them that if they are introduced to their benefactors (all of these kids are being sponsored by patrons of the arts) they should Say Thank You and Maybe Even Something Else Like Nice To Meet You.  They were repeatedly told to take advantage of opportunities to socialize with the professional musicians.  But when you looked around the room, the kids had their heads down and the parents were nodding enthusiastically and speaking and talking and I wanted to point out the obvious, which is that you can't expect kids who are raised as if they are mutes in adult circles to suddenly know how to stand up and take their places as know...on command. **I don't know these kids and doubt very seriously that they are all raised as mutes by their parents, I'm talking about the Bigger Picture of how our culture and society tends to treat young people as somehow lesser than those who have simply been here longer, as if any of us even have anything to say about the order in which we arrive.

Just a little something to think about.  I'm SO FAR FROM PERFECT, believe me.  And if you don't believe me, I can ask my kids to leave their opinions in the comments section and you will get the Real Dirt on the Subject. 

Sometimes I have to remind myself to pay attention to and honor the needs of my littler guys (not so much with the bigger ones....I have a problem treating the little guys with the same respect as I do the bigger ones....I'm a Work In Progress).  Sometimes it is something simple, like Camille will say she doesn't like something and I'm tempted to say, Yes you do!!  And instead of thinking she just doesn't know what she's talking about, I'll force myself to believe that she absolutely does.  And then I just keep on doing it the rest of the day.  Not just giving in, but believing in what she expresses to me.  It makes me see her differently.  It makes me honor her, respect her, and yes, love her, differently.  It makes me value her differently.  And then? It makes me value everyone a little differently, myself included.

I'm more likely to believe my own needs deserve to be met when I can see that simple truth in the needs of others. 

OH MY GOD.  I think I just bestowed the Golden Rule upon you people.  I told you I was going to be all smart!  Just did it in my usual Wordy Way. 

Happy Independence Day!