Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pumpkin Bombing. Again.

YES! We bombed the river with pumpkins on Thanksgiving, again. I know you've been dying with curiosity...

If you're new to the blog and you're all like WHAT IS PUMPKIN BOMBING? It is exactly what it sounds like. About twelve years ago, as I drove over the old rickety wooden bridge that crossed the San Antonio river...the one on our dirt road...I thought to myself, "Dang. I sure would like to drop a pumpkin over the bridge into the river. I bet it would make a big splash." And yes, twelve years ago - I was technically well into adulthood. Anyway - since that Thanksgiving found us with a couple of pumpkins still intact, we decided to see if it would be as much fun as it sounded.

IT WAS. They made huge gigantic wonderful splashes!! Some of them even exploded upon impact!! We were hooked.

We've done it every year since. Sometimes with a lot of people, sometimes with a few. We used to hold onto the kids by their pants so they wouldn't follow the pumpkins into the river. Now they're all bigg-ish and such and we don't do that anymore. A few other changes - in the name of progress - our delightful wooden bridge was torn down and a butt-ugly concrete one was put in its place. The dirt road was paved. So our pumpkin bombing isn't as picturesque as it once was, but it is still freakishly fun.

We had a small Thanksgiving this year - it was just what I needed. By small, I mean our family of 7, plus El's boyfriend, my dad and sister, and a few friends.

My dad is counting down back there. It's good that he counted down. Because when he tosses he cheats. How can you cheat at pumpkin tossing you ask?

Well, you'd think the bombing and the splashing and whatnot would be enough. But this gang wants a WINNER. Actually, it was probably Ellie who started that. Let's say it was.

Once the pumpkins are tossed, everyone runs across to the other side of the bridge to see who's pumpkin comes out the other side first. And if you're wondering how we tell the pumpkins apart, let me just say that I don't think we can. Hence the ensuing arguments as to who won. Here is the winning pumpkin. Who is belongs to is still being debated.

Before the tossing, there is all kinds of posturing. Here is The Joels.

Then there's posing for pics. Papa with Camille, Ellie, and Jasper. 

And here's ME and the man.
And finally, as we left the pumpkins, the river, and a gaggle of gawkers who never did figure out what we were doing but seemed to enjoy themselves, nonetheless...Camille took this lovely picture.
It would be perfect without the power lines.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as lovely, even if you wasted your pumpkins by baking them in pies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Next Big Thing!

I'm participating in #PitchWars - a contest where a few writers are chosen by writing mentors to hook up with and prepare pitches for agents. There's a Writing Meme going around and the hopefuls are participating. I'm a hopeful, so here I go.

*Clears throat and announces* The Next Big Thing (!!)

This is my attempt at concise answers STOP LAUGHING.

1. What is the title of your book?

Just a Little Sting. Look at me being concise!

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I met two people in the span of two weeks who were synesthetes - meaning they had synesthesia - meaning they actually freaking see sounds as colors, shapes, and even thoughts and smells. This just blew me away. I'd gone my entire life without having met a single person with synesthesia and now I knew two of them! Clearly, The Universe was trying to tell me something. It's very concerned with me and my daily goings on.

My mind began whirring with the possibilities of creating a character with synesthesia. Both of the people I'd met were classical musicians, and so it seemed only natural that my character would be a musician, too. Only mine is of the electric guitar variety.

Most people with synesthesia find it to be a minor inconvenience, at times. Who wants to read a story about someone who is minorly inconvenienced? Not me! So my character is often completely crippled by his synesthesia. It's been a problem throughout his entire life and it's led to some bad behavior. In other words, my bad boy has issues. Poor baby.

That was me not being concise. I'll make up for it on the next question.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary Romance

4. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Cleo, my red-headed 30-years-old and still trying to find her way in life heroine, would ideally be played by Amy Adams. Isn't she adorable?

Julian, my guitar-wielding hero, would have to be a conglomeration. Casting people! Get on that! *snaps fingers*

The actor would have to look a little like John Frusciante when he's playing guitar:

And he'd have to have tattoos like Adam Levine.

And he simply MUST talk like Russell Brand. We're all suckers for accents. Especially if they're colourful!

So basically, I don't know who would play Julian, but it would NOT be this.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Oh dear. If I write a huge run-on sentence that makes all other run-on sentences look like they were merely jogging or possibly running in place, do you think anyone would notice?

Here goes:

Julian risks his hard-won sanity and sobriety by stepping back into the spotlight of rock and roll in order to win the affections of Cleo, a woman he mistakenly believes can't love him without fame - because without fame, he thinks he's just a freak.

That wasn't so bad. I inserted a hyphen in there all smooth-like, though. Technically STILL ONE SENTENCE. And it leaves out so much and this is why I so desperately want to be chosen for #PitchWars....I need the help!! HELP ME.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The world of self-publishing has changed. It really has. It isn't your grandmother's world of self-publishing, anymore. There's more to self-publishing now than people hawking cookbooks and memoirs in the back rooms of conferences. But I want an agent. Agents know things. They know smarty-smart-smart things. Also? I work better with a buddy.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your novel?

A freakishly long time. I foolishly thought the transition from nonfiction to fiction would be easy. Aren't I kind of cute when I'm all innocent and naive?

It was not easy. I'm a huge reader, and I thought I'd instinctively know how to write fiction because of it. But I didn't. People know a book is bad when they're reading it, but they don't know why it's bad. I had to learn the whys of the bad, and then I worked on the ways of the good. Like a Jedi.

It took over two years. Don't judge! I did it while dealing with the sexual irresponsibility we like to call our five kids! And during this time, one of them had brain surgery. That's right - I'm playing the brain surgery card. 

The novel I'm writing now is progressing at lightning speed in comparison. Thank God.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I like my romance steamy, but I like my characters to have depth. I like layers to dig through, and humor is a must. If you like the novels written by Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Rachel Gibson, you'll like Just a Little Sting.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I stated above, I met two musicians with synesthesia and that got the ball rolling.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

The characters in this story are trying to reconcile who they used to be with who they want to be, while who they really are slowly creeps up on them. It's what we're all doing, really. Only my characters are prettier than we are while they're doing it. Also? Sex scenes where a synesthete is involved are colorful, to say the least.

     This situation was annoying as hell and hadn't gone at all according to plan. The plan had been to whip off his sunglasses and cook the redhead with a smoldering look even though nobody wearing a stained t-shirt and some sort of horrible men's trunks deserved one. In no part of his plan was he supposed to be wearing women's clothing while suffering the scathing scrutiny of an unimpressed pint-sized bundle of bravado.
     He lifted his eyes towards hers and did what he did best; a highly perfected sexy glance, followed by a boyish gaze through the lashes. He deliberately pulled his eyes away from her brilliant green peepers for a greedy stop at her mouth, where he noticed she was nervously biting her bottom lip. Cute. Then he let his eyes drift intentionally lower to make the obligatory pause at the breasts. Okay, more than a pause. White t-shirt. No bra. Very nice.
     When his eyes made it back to hers, he was gratified by a furious blush spreading across her cheeks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When it's NOT Harder Than a Femur.

Something just happened and it made me question everything I thought I knew about anything.

Song lyrics. We humans are famous for getting them wrong in hysterically entertaining ways. I, myself, am no stranger to this phenomena. In fact, Jeff and I have had HUGE FIGHTS over song lyrics. And just last week, I was writing in a coffee shop when a song came on that reminded me of Ellie. It was by a band she'd really liked back when we were travelling around looking at music schools and it made me miss her. So I immediately facebooked her:

Hey Ellie I'm in a coffee shop and they're playing that song by that French band you used to like and now I miss you. It's that one that goes: Like a rhine, like a rhino! Or maybe it's like a wine, like a wino!

And she responded something like:

Oh my God, Mom! It's like a riot, like a riot, oh!

Whatever. I was close. Also, I really liked my version better - the one about rhinos.

So this sh*t happens, sometimes. But you don't screw up the lyrics for Your Band. If it's Your Band, you know their lyrics like the back of your hand, even if Your Band is the Red Hot Chili Peppers and their lyrics are Somewhat Nonsensical. They're lyrical (lyrics!) and poetic and they mean something, even if it's only Hey This Rhymes! and you don't mess around with them!

Sir Psycho Sexy is a dirty song. It really is. And it isn't dirty by implication, it isn't nasty by nuance, it's just really filthy smut. In my younger years, as a new mommy, I didn't appreciate Sir Psycho Sexy. It was disgusting in a frat house sort of way. But now? Well, now that we're all grown up and keeping our socks on our feet where they belong, it's just kind of funny. And funky. With some great grooves. It makes me grin. And my favorite part? Was this line:

Harder than a femur!

Harder than a femur! That's freaking hilarious! Especially if you're talking about an erection, which I have assumed, since 1993, that we were! Harder than a femur! WHAT A LINE.

Whenever I face a difficult task or a trying time, I might say, "Geez, this is harder than femur." DO YOU SEE HOW PERFECT A LINE THAT IS???

Sure, it bothered me a little that it didn't quite rhyme with beaver (don't over-think that - I know this is supposed to be a family show) - it almost rhymed with beaver in the same way that Dora almost rhymes with Explorer if you say it like you're from New Jersey.

Anyway - back to the boner - of the femur variety, specifically. How can I say this? How can I say that the most perfect phrase, the best ever little witty line in that entire stupid song - the adorable word-tangle that redeemed Sir Psycho, DOESN'T EXIST?

It doesn't exist.

Harder than a femur doesn't exist. Not even a little. What Anthony Kiedis wrote, and what he sings, is the way way way less impressive and non-noteworthy and So Been Done Before Hotter Than a Fever.

Hotter than a fever? HOTTER THAN A FEVER?!? Really? Are you kidding me? That's not funny! That's not original! That's not anything I can say when encountering a humongous obstacle of enormous proportions! I wouldn't even say it IF IT WERE REALLY REALLY HOT OUTSIDE.

It's That Much Meh.

It does rhyme with Beaver, though.

So tell me, people. What else do I have all wrong?? Do I even know anything at all anymore? Other than the fact that sometimes, finding something to blog about is HARDER THAN A FEMUR!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Riding the Curve and the End of the Can

Today, we're trading in the Sardine Can for a small little pop-up camper. That's right! The very can that started this blog is heading for greener pastures, hopefully with another adventuresome family.

Our camping life over the years would look like a Bell curve, I guess. We started out as two in a backpacking tent. We thought about nobody but ourselves and it was ROCKING AWESOME, don't kid yourselves. Jeff proposed to me on the Pine Canyon Trail in Big Bend National Park. At the time, we didn't consider the possibility that one day we'd hike that trail with babies on our backs or strapped to our chests with dirty diapers outweighing our water bottles. But we did.

Tent camping with a baby basically sucks. So we bought a little pop-up camper. Eventually, the pop-up camper was overflowing with 7 people. It was pretty bad, and smelly, too. So we traded up to what became known as our Sardine Can.

Man, it was like we'd moved into Trump Palace! A bed for everyone! A heater! A freaking refrigerator, stove, microwave, and shower! A stereo system that regularly blasted out Red Hot Chili Peppers and, if my dad was with us (and he often was) Pink Martini or Herb Albert or on one very long evening involving tequila, Axl Rose singing "Since I Don't Have You" over and over and over while my dad tried to learn the lyrics. We were always popular with the other campers.

Then a weird thing started to happen. The kids got bigger and wanted to sleep in tents. Sometimes they (gasp) didn't want to go at all. Maybe they had to work, maybe they had something planned with friends, and then Ellie abandoned ship and left for college.

The event, however, that sealed the Sardine Can's fate was the selling of The Bus. Like the Sardine Can, the 12-passenger van I drove started out with 2 car seats, a booster seat, 2 big kids, 2 parents, a friend or two, and The Grandpa. But for the past two years, it mostly drove me and Camille into the city for ballet. It was a HUGE waste of gas and more than we could afford. It was also the only thing we owned that could pull the Sardine Can. I replaced it with a small, red car that rocks on the gas mileage.

And we are now the proud new owners of another small pop-up.

Bell Curve. We start out small, we expand to near bursting, and then we deflate and end up back where we started. You can't really see the curve when you're riding it, you know. Everything is Now and Permanent and The Way Things Are. Of course, maybe if we knew that was all an illusion we'd cherish moments more, but we're not wired that way. Maybe if we knew we were riding a curve we'd never make the climb. Maybe if we knew we were only going to end up right back where we'd started, we'd just stay where we are. It's ingenious, really, the way these things work.

I'm sad, watching the Sardine Can go. It was at the top of the curve, baby! It really was. And on that very first trip to California, the one that started this blog, it taught me a lesson about what's really important. Maybe I don't remember everything about that trip as clearly as I remembered it last year, or the year before. But I'll tell you what I do remember:

I remember being in the camper beneath the stars, the second week into the trip. I remember the feel of a baby nursing at my breast, the love of my life cuddled up against my back. A mere few feet away were the other four children, asleep in bunk beds. It felt as if everything that was good and important and necessary in the universe had been titrated down to it's essence and poured into a 26-foot camper. Nothing existed outside of that little cocoon that mattered at all.  And I was totally cognizant of it. I was lucid - and come on - how often does that happen? It was a gift, that night.

My life is different now. With every milestone of independence the teens and tween take, part of me evaporates. I'm stretched, watered down, I feel...diluted.

They've grown, and I've shrunk.

I'm learning to live with this new version of myself. The version that has held tight, let go, and lived to tell the tale. It has some scars. It's smarter than it used to be. It's more...grateful.

Good things are ahead for all of us, I'm sure of it. There are new Bell curves to ride; I just need to find where my next one begins.

And for the love of God, that does not mean I'm pregnant.

If you want to see what we were like when it all began, you can check out the very beginning of the blog. Or you can just wait and see where we all go from here.

Signing off now, as the Sardine Mama Without a Can

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Petty Pointless Bagging

I've been a mess, friends. Some Big Things have been going on and I don't do well with Big Things.
Big Things like:

MY NOVEL. Query-writing sucks so bad. It really really does. You know what's worse? The rejections that follow. I've received a couple. You know what's worse? The Requests for Fulls that I'm convinced are flukes because I want Everyone (!!) to Love Me (!!) All the Time (!!)

Neurotic Much?

Anyway - so I have fulls out. That's good. But it makes me insane for reals. Like I go from being all sad and morose and wallowing like a BOSS to YAY! Hooray! This is WONDERFUL!! I'm toying with the idea of becoming bi-polar. Like full-up total bi-polar. I'll let you know what I decide.

Also? POLITICS. ELECTION. I know I'm just a silly woman but I have concerns about these things anyway.

Also also? Ellie had a solo recital and it went really well but you guys know I psychically hold that concert grand together with my BRAIN while she plays. It's exhausting. And Jasper tortured me throughout the entire thing by loudly squeaking his seat - it was one of those that pops up when you're not sitting in it so yeah - he did that. A lot. In several seats. When it was over, he curled himself up in the fetal position during the reception, alarming at least one college student who seemed to want me to do something about it. I slid a plate of crackers over to him (he was on the floor) and a few minutes later the crackers were gone. I looked hopefully at the college student but he remained dubious of my parenting skills.

He didn't realize Jasper needs time to "acclimate." Last weekend I took him on a roller coaster and as it climbed up for the first drop he yelled, "I'm not acclimated!!" He's like that.

Also also also? I have a sick friend. Like really sick. As in chemo sick. Chemo sick sucks.

So let's talk about Petty Things, shall we? To take my mind off it all?

I got a new car. It is red. If you look in my closet you will find exactly ZERO red things. There's a reason for that. I look like sh*t in red. I won't wear it in a t-shirt, a lipstick, or a nail polish. But apparently it's okay to drape myself in tons and tons of it and then become mobile. If you see me, I totally apologize for looking washed out. It's red! Gah.

Also? I have a pet peeve that has nothing to do with red cars and everything to do with our culture's obsession with bags. As in plastic bags. Or paper bags, really. Why is it that people want to put everything they buy in a bag? People buy a bag of chips - it gets put in a bag. A bag of bread? In a bag. A bag of potatoes? In a bag. WHY?? Why can't you just carry the bag of bread you carried to the register out to your car? Why must you place it in another bag first? I just watched a guy buy a soda at a convenience store. A single soda. That he was going to drink on the spot. It was put in a bag, first. He'd taken it out of the bag and tossed the bag in the trash before he was out the door. It stayed in the bag for like two feet, people.

And when I take my pinko commie canvas reusable bags in the store? They try to slip a plastic bag in anyway! God forbid the Q-Tips end up right up against a package of spaghetti - all naked and rubbing right up against it. We need to put it in plastic bag first, and THEN put it in the commie bag. Because it's technically a toiletry item. Or some such nonsense. OR the bagger will put like one item in each bag so he can run out of my reusable bags and be forced to pop out plastic for my remaining 900 items. This happens while the cashier is distracting me. It's like a THING THEY DO ON PURPOSE.

And why, you ask, does this petty sh*t bother me? Because it keeps me from worrying about queries, kids, my rights possibly going down the toilet, and sick friends.


Keeps me sane.

Oh mah God - I almost forgot. I'm on The Twitter. I say that in the voice of an old, Jewish man. I'm on The Twitter. I have No Idea What I'm Doing. And there's always the chance I'll go all Courtney Love on The Twitter and you wouldn't want to miss that

Signing Off @sardinemama

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Pointe Is...

Recently, Camille stood at a barre, surrounded by boxes of painful torture devices disguised as pretty, pink slippers.

"It's important that they fit," the sales girl said. "She's way too young to have her feet disfigured."

When, I wondered, is it ever okay to have your feet disfigured? I wanted to snatch my child away. I've seen the pictures of dancers' feet - I've seen Black Swan and other ballerina angst films. Why was my daughter about to start on this journey of pain and OH MY GOD EXCUSE THE ALL-CAPS possible disfigurement? At the age of ten?

I'm no dance mom. This dance business, it's no dream of mine. Flashdance only inspired me to wear leg warmers, for crying out loud. So how did I end up here, in the dance store, about to buy pointe shoes for my child? Only the most driven dancers, the itty bitty percent, end up on pointe shoes. Even fewer stick with it for the long haul.

Camille has talked about this moment since she was old enough to talk. Shortly after she began walking, she began dancing. And while other kids loved PBS for Elmo and Big Bird (strongly resisting the urge to talk about Romney here), Camille wanted to know when the next ballet or opera would be on. And then she'd watch it. Actually, that's an understatement. She'd become it. And it didn't matter if it was in German, Italian, or English - she was absorbed by it.

We were treated to endless den performances - tutus, tickets, dramatic lighting - all before she'd set foot in a ballet studio.

She put a lot of work into making the tickets.

And of course into the performances.
Who knew that only a couple of years later she'd be backstage, waiting to dance in a professional production of Copellia?

She knew. She always knew...

"Tell me if it hurts when you go up," the girl said last week. "First position..."

It all seemed so casual - as if this were not the moment she'd dreamed of pretty much her entire life. It was just a store, these were just was all so technical - getting the right fit - no music, no celebration, no fireworks.

And then the girl said, "Go up."

Everyone, obviously, was looking at Camille's feet. The sales girl, my dad, Camille's friend who'd come along to watch, and the other people shopping in the store. Everyone stared at her feet. But for some reason, my eyes flitted up to her face - at just the right moment.

She didn't gasp, she didn't squeal, she didn't even smile. She looked...surprised.

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but we humans are not meant to be on our toes. We're not meant to balance on them, we're not meant to spin on them, we're not meant to hop across a stage on them. And Camille's face reflected that - not the pain of it - sadly, I'm sure that will come, later. It reflected the surprise of achieving the unexpected.

Her eyes met mine, briefly, in the mirror. Did you see what I did? Wasn't that spectacular?

It was spectacular. And it was spectacular in a way that I will never truly understand. Because her dream is not my dream. But I got a small glimpse, in that tiny dimple that appeared out of nowhere on her right cheek, of what it might feel like to suddenly balance on your toes. To achieve, for the very first time, that which you feel you were quite possibly born to achieve.

Actually, I think I might have felt what she felt at that moment. The shock, surprise, realization, and awe of your own badass self. Yes, I have! I have felt it before! Five times, to be exact. Because five times my body has done something unexpected, something that it seemed it shouldn't have been able to do. Five times I've surprised myself. And each time, I held my newborn and looked at Jeff. Did you see what I did?

It was, indeed, truly spectacular each time. And it was also incredibly and unbelievably painful. And frightening. Because creation isn't easy. And we surprise ourselves with it each time. Even when we knew it was coming.

These are miraculous things we do, and we do them every day. We rise on our toes, we paint, we sing. Sometimes we squeeze words out of the ethersphere.

We give birth.

It's worth the pain.

I'm so glad I was not looking at her feet. She will rise on pointe many times over the next few years. But she only rose for the first time, once. And it was all in her eyes.

I won't feel badly for letting her do this. I'll do what I can to get the best-fitting shoes possible. I'll make sure she has the best teachers to guide her. But I won't stand in the way of creation. Because I saw her eyes when the girl said, "Go up,"...and she did.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I Yam What I Yam

So I went to a writer's workshop on social media. I hate workshops, and I hate social media if it is any kind of social media I'm not already using and comfortable with. Also - I went as a newbie/non-member to this workshop - cold turkey without a buddy and I am a better with a buddy. In general.

I walked into the room, signed in, paid, and was given a name tag which I promptly stuck IN MY HAIR.  People tried not to notice as I began the tiresome process of separating my bazillion hairs from the name tag while acting like it didn't hurt. I hate being the new girl and I particularly hate being the new girl with a name tag in her hair.

Anyway - the workshop was great in that it affirmed some things I already thought in regards to writers' blogs, websites, and social media. The things it didn't affirm....whatevs. I didn't understand that stuff anyway. In fact, I actually lost consciousness several times - a little condition I suffer whenever anyone tries to force-feed me instructions on how to use electronic devices or whenever I'm forced into the plumbing/electrical aisle of a home improvement store.

Writers' Blogs: I kept wondering why I needed one. I mean, really. Who would read it? Other writers? What could I possibly say that would interest them that they haven't already said themselves? Like, I just didn't get it, you know? I don't like reading writers' blogs much, myself. And when I do, I rarely buy the book(s) they're pushing because I buy books by authors I already read or authors my friends suggest - maybe I hear about it on NPR - something like that. To buy a book from every writers' site where someone is hawking a book would be ridiculous and would possibly result in Inspirational Romance ending up on my bookshelves and I DON'T WANT THAT. Not that there's anything wrong with Inspirational Romance - I just don't want to read it.

So the workshop presenter said my blog needs to be about things other than writing. It is! It needs to show a unique voice that people like. I have a unique voice that people like! Humor is good. I totally crack myself up! You can talk about anything. I talk about anything!

What a freaking, amazing relief!! I cannot TELL you how sick to death I was of worrying over this writing blog and how I was going to have to deal with it in addition to writing novels AND how it wouldn't allow me to have time for Sardines in a Can and I miss writing my little old Not Really About Anything blog! Supposedly, my followers read me because they like me and they'll buy my book because they like me and then if they like the book as much as they like me they'll tell their friends and THAT is how Fifty Tons of Bullshit makes its way to the best seller list!! YAY!!

I'M BACK, MAH PEEPS! And I don't even feel guilty about being here.

There are a couple of things, however, that might be considered little problems, if we want to keep this here act all kinds of professional.

*I'm not supposed to post pics of myself.
I went to TWO Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts this month SO FAR! And I wore an Off! cap like Anthony Kiedis and I really thought everyone would be wearing one but they weren't and I'm pretty sure that Anthony was looking at me. Seriously. Right in the eyes. He was all like, "Cool! We have the same cap!" or possibly, "That bitch is wearing my cap!" I couldn't tell. But anyway - here we are leaving for one concert:

And here we are in the car leaving like the groupies we are to follow the band to the NEXT concert. Because we are not amateurs, that's why.

In addition to not posting pictures of myself that could be interpreted as anything other than strictly professional, I am also supposed to abstain from mentioning religion, politics, or using any form of possibly offensive profanity. Um...that would be no, no, and f*ucking hell no.

Honestly, though, if my followers are any indication of my offensiveness - I'm not too concerned. I love you guys! You are liberal, conservative, parents, non-parents, straight, extremely not-straight, religious, and atheist. Some of you are several of these things at once. And you keep coming here - even though I am prone to making fun of Rick Perry and Sarah Palin (GOD HOW I MISS SARAH PALIN - I MISS HER LIKE I MISS MEL GIBSON AND CHARLIE SHEEN). You come even though I don't share your faith. You come even though I don't send my kids to school, nor do I school them at home, and you might be a teacher or a principal or the president of your PTA. You come even though you can't possibly understand why one woman would have five kids - or why one woman would have only five kids.

I think you come here because you like what I have to say, or how I say it. Or because you're bored and I've become part of your procrastination routine.

You come. And so I'm not changing a thing.


I might change some things. Probably will, in fact. But for the most part, you're going to get what you've always gotten. Me.

The End.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How I Spent My Summer Vacation Worrying About Other People

Oh dear. How to do this without overwhelming myself? Where do I start?

1) Writer's Blog is under construction. And it is called Fight for Your Write (thanks Heidi!). It will be linked to a Facebook Author page, where I will be optimistically referred to as a pre-published author. I can't tell you how badly that little bit of optimism goes against my natural tendencies. But that's what we say nowadays! We don't say "un" published. We're pre-published, by God! Ack. It makes me cringe. I can't help it. I'd rather don black and retreat to my tower to willfully wallow in statistics of unlikelyhood. if believing were enough. Honestly, people. Some of us just can't write - and saying we're pre-published doesn't change that. I mean - technically - my dog is pre-published. And he can't write at ALL. So much for terminology elevating my objectivity.

2)  Did I mention my book is finished? My book is finished.

3) To quote Jack White, I just don't know what to do with myself. Well, that's not true. There is a lot to do around here. But I kind of walk around in this haze of expectation. As if Something Big is about to happen because of #2 up above.

4) Somehow, in between all of the writing delirium - non-fiction kept happening. (It's sometimes referred to as life.) Jules had his surgery. He was a freaking trooper, believe me. And, since I'm sure you're wondering, you should know that I WAS ALSO A TROOPER. I know! Surprising, right? I did really well!

There were 3 surgeons. The one who had the most difficult job was the one who was charged with finding and harvesting fat from Jules' body to plug into his head after the tumor was removed. Jules is 5'10" and weighs 117 pounds. He is all muscle. And he now bears an impressive C-Section type of a scar across his belly. He tells people he got it in a sword fight. Or he'll show it to them when they ask to see his brain surgery scar, just to enjoy the looks of utter confusion.

The surgery was easier than we'd expected, in some ways, and harder in others. ICU was hard. They kept telling me he was okay but he certainly didn't look okay. He looked like this:

If you don't know by now - I am squeamish. I don't like sick or injured things to be in my general vicinity. But let me tell you - I was all over this kid and into his business 24/7.
On his first night in the ICU, the nurse went to give him a dose of steroids directly into his line. She warned me that it might make him nauseous. Well, as soon as she depressed the plunger he projectiled. And he was flat on his back. She tossed me a hose and said, "Suction his mouth!" AND I DID. Brilliantly and heroically I suctioned vomit out of his mouth!

He hadn't really spoken yet - but he looked at me after I wiped his mouth, and he raised one of his beautiful, delicate eyebrows to show how surprised impressed he was by my performance. I knew then that he really was going to be okay. And so was I. Life's a crap shoot - and for reasons I can't explain - I just keep winning. Charmed, blessed, whatever you want to call it. I don't know whether it's because the Universe likes to Smile Upon Me, or if it's because I've just been trotting along unnoticed and have thus far avoided its wrath.

5) Ellie went to Europe. By herself. She participated in two music festivals; one in Innsbruck and one in Vienna. In addition to Austria, she visited Germany, Italy, and Slovakia.  I can't tell you how far the heartstrings were stretched during this month that she was gone. This was a huge, momentous mothering event for me that far surpassed the Going Off to College drama. And you know what a drama that was - you read about it for like two solid years! But this - sending her so far away - it was really setting her free, letting her go, trusting her to be okay, trusting the Universe, trusting, trusting, trusting....very difficult. I somehow kept breathing.

She tries to be really strong around me because any sign of weakness and I'm a melting mess of enormous proportions. I think she's terrified I'll try and force her back in the womb, where really, she should have stayed to begin with. Letting them out is a huge mistake, when you think about it. Once they're out - they want to go to Europe by themselves. Anyway - I could tell she was a little frightened and it killed me. But as usual - she swallowed it down and got on with it. She's always been the bravest person I know. Here she is in being brave in Strausburg.

6) Other notable things happened, as well, but I'm tired of noting them.
Until Next Time!
Sardine Mama

Sunday, May 13, 2012

It's Time

I know. It's like I fell off the face of the earth again. Actually, I fell into writing my novel. Like I totally wrote and wrote and rewrote and rewrote.  And while I wrote I felt incredibly guilty because I had kids running around somewhere. I was pretty sure I did, anyway. It was all rather vague and blurry as far as that went. Because I was writing.

While I was writing, the house fell apart.  The laundry piled up, as did the dishes. The food rotted in the refrigerator. The dust grew thick. The cobwebs invaded. The trash spilled over. You get the idea.

The children did not bathe.  They played video games all day. They ate corn with a spoon out of a can and called it dinner. They grew taller. Older. Different. And yet I kept writing.


I don't know. But today is Mother's Day, and I'm reminded again that if everything in the world were to be titrated down into the only thing that mattered to me, it would be these five little souls skittering about, growing up, forming opinions...shaping the world.  They're everything to me. Even on the days when my mind has chosen to hole itself up with far less interesting make-believe people.

Sometimes I thought about blogging. But then I'd quickly become overwhelmed.  There was just So Much Going On.  All of it was blogworthy. Where to start? Nowhere. So I didn't.

Jasper had a birthday. Joel shaved his head. Ellie made travel plans. Brain surgery was scheduled for Jules. Camille auditioned for a dance ensemble. Women watched (many idly) their rights slip away while their men stood silent. Rick Santorum happened. Then he un-happened. North Carolina did what it did. And Obama did what he did. Mitt Romney forgot about bullying a gay boy - it was just something teenagers did, after all. I was accosted at a stoplight over my Obama bumper sticker and came home and peeled it off. Trayvon Martin was murdered. I went to a Jane's Addiction concert.

All of the above? Blogworthy. But I was busy writing escapism romance. Apparently, people (women, in particular) need a little bit of that. 

And then the Time Cover happened. And I really wanted to blog about that. But everyone else has already done it. I spent an entire decade of my life breastfeeding. And I breastfed toddlers, usually standing up, because that is how they roll. In fact, if I were younger, blonder, and thirty pounds lighter, that could be me on the cover.  In my head I looked every bit as bad-ass as the chick on the cover of Time Magazine. Making food with your own body is sort of a super human power, after all.  In fact, when the children come to me asking for the occasional this or that, and I tell them I'm writing and they should ask their father, and they say they asked their father and he's busy and said they should ask me, I'll sometimes say, "Tell Daddy I used to make food for you with my very own body. He can certainly wash a bowl of grapes."

The Time picture has started a flurry of Blogger Activity.  The child is too old! It's abuse! Um, no he isn't and it's not. More people than you realize are closet nursers of Not Really So Tiny Children. I bet you ten bucks you know some. They're just not doing it in front of you.  Unless, that is, they belong to one of the zillions of cultures of people who nurse children beyond infancy. I don't really think that's the problem with the picture, though.

People (men) like their breastfeeding women to resemble the Virgin Mary Whist Feeding the Baby Jesus.  That's the only way they can justify such a blatant misuse of tits mammary glands. If a woman dares to bare it and feed whilst looking all bad-ass and Distinctly Un-Virginal and feeding a toddler way too big to fit in the Christmas Nativity Scene causes all sorts of uncomfortable feelings....quite possibly in the nether regions.  And there is to be no mingling between nurturing and nether regions.  The fact that women are talented, multi-dimensional, multi-taskers SHOULD equate to their breasts being so, as well, but men some people would prefer that breasts and their purposes proceed along in a linear in now they're sexy, now they're matronly and nurturing, and now they're sexy again...not willy nilly sexy/nurturing all at the same time. The reason for this is simple: People are massively screwed up when it comes to sex, feminism, and did I say sex? Yes.

Speaking of sex and things that set the blogosphere abuzz: Fifty Shades of Grey.  If I see one more word about it I'm going to set my hair on fire.  Unless, of course, it's on my Very Own Brand Spanking New Writer's Blog.  The one where I'm going to break the First Cardinal Rule of Unpublished Writer's Blogs and criticize a published writer.  The only thing holding me back is the fact that I haven't a name for my new blog.  I'd appreciate any suggestions you might have.  And by the way, all witty little titles incorporating the word "write" have already been used. 

I'll draw a winner from the people who send me suggestions, and that lucky winner will receive his or her very own copy of Haruki Murakami's novel, Kafka on the Shore.  I will never criticize Murakami. Because he is perfect in every way. Every single way. 

If you've never entered a contest of this nature before, now is a good time to do so.  I suspect you might be the only one who responds, and this greatly increases your odds of winning. 

As soon as I have a Blog Name - you will be able to read my thoughts on Shades of Grey, the BDSM Erotica novel you've seen, oddly enough, gracing the shelves of your local neighborhood Costco.

You guys were my guilty pleasure today.  I'll try not to stay away so long next time.
Sardine Mama

Sunday, March 18, 2012

To Stone or Not to Stone? That is (not) the Question.

It's the Lord's Day and I've been thinking about religion a lot lately.  We are living in strange times.

I think I've talked a little before about my spiritual journey on this blog - how I was raised in a secular home but in a religious society - how I longed to be part of the private club - how I joined and then left the club - and how I am now trying to raise my own children in a secular home that exists within an increasingly fundamentalist society.  I'm hoping they won't feel that "longing to belong" that always nagged me growing up.

As homeschoolers, we are even more saturated with religion than the average Texan.  Most people here homeschool for religious reasons.  Even so, we have found a circle of friends who accept us and love us for who we are....some of them are religious and some are not.  But the Culture of Homeschooling here is definitely religious in nature.  There is a definite feeling of families homeschooling to protect their children from what they see as evil secular influences (although honestly, the public schools here aren't exactly free-thinking hot spots), or to raise Christian soldiers or prepare for the Rapture or because they were "called" to homeschool by God Himself.  Families homeschooling for these reasons do not tend to be a very welcoming bunch. 

For example:  On Facebook I belong to a group that consists of local homeschoolers.  They post activities, seek advice, share information, etc.  And the general assumption among them is: If You're Homeschooling You're Christian.  But the group, itself, is secular.

Recently, a woman posted about a field trip she was organizing at a trampoline place.  It was a great price and sounded like something Camille and Jasper would want to do - so I read the info.  This caught my eye:

Disney music will be played. There will be no secular music!!

Do I need to point out the obvious error here?  No?  OK.  I won't.

Next it said:  Invite all the Christian Homeschoolers you know!

People immediately began asking know...normal questions like dress code questions.  They wanted to make sure their sons would not witness shoulders, etc.  Because that would drive them mad, I guess.  Make them begin raping and pillaging and plundering - and it would be all because of those bared shoulders or the possible glimpse of cotton panties up the leg of a jumping girl whose mother didn't think to dress her modestly for a trampoline place.  We are all Eve, after all.  We're is our responsibility to make sure we do not cause evil thoughts in the minds of men with our nasty, filthy shoulders.  Wait...I've digressed.

So I posted a simple question.  "Is this field trip open to all homeschoolers or is it just for Christians?"


All posting about dress codes and secular music ceased.  If we're all very quiet, maybe she'll just go away.

Later, I was told that the original poster responded with four comments, one of which began with, "I'm not trying to start a faith war, just plan a field trip..."

Before I could respond that I also was not trying to start a faith war, just wanted to know if we were welcome to come jump on the trampolines because it's an hour-long drive for me and if we were going to be asked to leave when we got there because we don't go to church I wanted to know that up front - well, before I could say that - she'd deleted all of her comments.  I didn't get to see them, but I'm betting that each one became more and more defensive and hysterical.

Needless to say, we didn't go on the field trip.

So this woman had been totally, completely, and thoroughly blown out of the water by me.  She hadn't expected me. I'd surprised her.  How can you be constantly worried about the throngs of evil atheists who are waging a war against you and persecuting you and trying to take away your rights - how can you claim to exist in the middle of this Huge Majority of Evil People - and then freak out when you actually hear from one?  Either we're everywhere you look or we're not.  And all I wanted to do was take my kids to jump on trampolines.  It was way more likely that your kids were going to try and indoctrinate mine than the other way around. 

I have really nice kids, by the way.

So that irritated me.  And then this irritated me:

A young man who had recently announced on Facebook that Liberals Are Hitler, took offense when someone else (not me) made a joke about something from Leviticus in regards to Marriage Equality.  The post didn't call anyone out, didn't use insulting language, and it was obviously meant to be humorous.  The young man took it as a personal attack on his faith.  A conversation ensued about what from the Bible was to be taken literally and what was not.  A man not lying with a man IS to be taken literally.  Other things, obviously, are not.  Like not wearing mixed fibers, for example. This is all nonsensical to me, but I can relate to how it might not be nonsensical to someone else.  Like I totally GET the fact that people have a right to their faith, and a right to live their lives according to their faith, as long as their faith doesn't dictate that they make me do the same (which is obviously where the problem currently lies in our country).  Anyway, I brought up the stoning of adulterers and how the Bible dictates that we should, you know, do that....and I knew full well that this young man would have a Biblical explanation for why we shouldn't stone people in this day and age.  He was not a casual Bible-Reader - it was obvious from his language and the lengthy discourse that he was very educated about his faith and the Bible.

I was right.  He launched into 3 main reasons why we don't stone adulterers.  They were detailed and involved a deep understanding of Torah and Talmud and Rabbinic Law.  He went to a lot of trouble to explain all of this to me - and honestly - I appreciated it because at least he could make a valid argument, as opposed to someone who really doesn't understand his own faith while he's trying to defend it. 

But after he made all of the points, all I could think of was:
I think we shouldn't bash people's heads in with rocks until their brains ooze out their ears because it's MEAN and amoral, not because we are living outside the borders of Israel without a jury of Biblically Ordained Aaronic priests. 

People wonder how atheists can have a moral compass...yet if you read the Bible, you wonder how religious people can.  Obviously, religion isn't the cause of morality, and often, it is the cause of atrocities.  And while I know some great religious people who walk the walk - they would be good people regardless - they're not good BECAUSE of their faith. 

I'm a good person and I'm raising good people.  We will not exclude you from coming on our field trips.  We will not try take your faith away, we just ask that you not force it on us (and I realize that the basis of many Christian faiths is spreading the Good News and saving people and such - and so yeah - makes it hard on folks like me for you to live out your faith). 

And I don't need to look up the answer in a book and ponder it at length when asked if people should stone other people.  My moral compass is just too firmly grounded for that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Story #2: Holed Up on President's Day

I told you I'm going to do a post per day this week!  This is Day 2 and here I am!

Stories.  I'm still on blogworty stories.

Jeff had the day off for President's Day last month even though he doesn't have a government job.  He works for a Japanese company and they take take this President's Day business seriously.  For some bizarre reason, *back when we used to homeschool, we would do all sorts of craftsy crazy dorky homeschooling activities on President's Day. This year we just went hiking.
*back when we used to homeschool....a phrase used by my sons when they talk about the "early days" of our homeschooling adventure.  they actually remember very little of it, which is why I quit that nonsense.

We headed for Enchanted Rock, which is a huge chunk of granite jutting out of the ground.  Like HUGE.  Not Half Dome Huge - but big enough to be fairly impressive in the Texas Hill Country where we're talking about, you know, hills.

On our way, we stopped to pick up Austen - so right away - things were bound to be exciting.

As you can see, he's always upside down.
 After a picnic, we headed up The Rock.  I mentioned it's granite, right?  And it's all uphill.  Parts of it are slippery.  If you fall, you are going all the way back down in a fraction of the time it took you to get up. So when the teen boys said, "Later..." and took off, I was hoping they weren't going to roll past me as I made my way up.  The three of them are more than a little adventurous, but I had Jasper with me so I couldn't waste a lot of time worrying about them.  Jasper, at the age of 7, began to run up the hill as if he were being chased by a herd of lions.  Now then....I CANNOT RUN UP THE HILL.   Jeff took off after Jasper, but he's just not as good at being neurotic as I am.  I disapproved of his calm demeanor in light of Jasper's full-speed jaunt up the rock, but I was too out of breath to properly express my discontent.  Camille also headed up at quite the pace, but being a girl, she LOOKED WHERE SHE WAS GOING as opposed to RUNNING BLINDLY AND INSANELY UP A STEEP AND SLIPPERY CHUNK OF GRANITE. 

I forgot all about the teen boys because I was entirely focused on being ready to catch Jasper in the event that he stopped, dropped, and rolled on down my way. 

Did I mention I was a tad out of breath during all of this?  'Cause I was. At one point, a little kid took a tumble and came up all kinds of bloody and started the wailing and although Jasper saw the poor kid I could tell he drew no conclusions as to what that could mean for him if he continued running across/up the granite - so I was trying to yell, "See what happens?" but it came out as a sad little whisper and he didn't hear me.

Did I mention that I did this climb without oxygen? Nor was I strapped to the back of a Sherpa.  I know, it's impressive.  I give all the credit for my being able to reach the summit to Jasper and his perilous climb.  It's what kept me going.

When I finally reached the summit I plopped down and pretended to appreciate the view of the clouds while my pulse thundered in my head and I heaved for breath.  I heard some commotion and lifted my head to see the SAS Shoe Crowd heading my way.  If you're unfamiliar with the SAS Shoe Crowd, let me just say that SAS Shoes are a type of shoe manufactured in San Antonio that is favored by the senior crowd.  You see SAS Shoes retirees running all over the damn place and they're hardly ever out of breath and it's freaking annoying.
"Lovely day!" they said as they stepped over me. Since I couldn't speak I opted for a friendly finger gesture behind their backs.

Eventually, I managed to stand up, but it was probably a little too soon because I immediately suffered a hallucination.  In the hallucination, Joel ran up to me and said, "Jules is in the finals!"

"The finals for what?" I asked.

"The Limbo Contest!" Joel said.  Then he ran off.

"Aha. The Limbo Contest," I said to my hallucinating self.  "Of course."

I looked across the top of the chunk of granite, past the SAS Shoes Hikers, to where it appeared a group had gathered.  In my hallucination, it looked a lot like this.

You can't make it out, but two kids are indeed holding a limbo stick, and three people are still in the running and one of them is Jules. That's right - you make it to the top of Enchanted Rock and there stands a Church Youth Group (like the SAS Shoe Crowd they're freaking everywhere and also hardly ever out of breath) and they've already indoctrinated your kids by luring them into the fold with a freaking limbo stick.  You can't turn your back for ONE MINUTE. 

Seriously, these were some nice kids.  Jules came in 2nd, and then we all went our separate ways.  And when I say we all went our separate ways, I mean that the three teen boys screamed, "We're headed to the cave!" and then disappeared on the Other Side of the Granite Rock.
Jasper yelled, "Me too!" and took off.

I yelled, "JEFF!" and he yelled, "I'm going!" and Camille said, "Can I come?" and then they all disappeared and I brought up the rear.  By the time I arrived at what is known as The Cave, I found Jeff and Camille staring at a hole.  Jasper was climbing out of the hole.

"What's that?" I asked.

"That's the cave," Jeff said.

"That's not a cave, that's a hole."

Jeff pointed to a sign that said The Cave.  Jasper said it was very dark in there and that he lost the boys.  Hmmm...I looked at Jeff.  "They said they'd be out in ten minutes or so."

About that time, Jules comes climbing out of the hole.  He looks a little panicky - he's claustrophobic.  "I'm not going back in there," he said. "It's pitch black and I could barely squeeze through some places."

I looked into the hole.  I am not claustrophobic, but I do have a strange and intense fear of being crushed by boulders.  I immediately broke out into a sweat.  "So they get to the end of the hole and they come back out, right?" I asked Jules.

"I don't think it ends," he said. "It just goes on and on and you can't see anything and you have to crawl through tight spaces..." he stopped there so he and I could share a spontaneous shiver.  At that point I yelled into the hole.  Nobody answered.  I looked at Jeff and he looked guilty in the way that he always looks guilty when the boys are having fun.

"Give them ten minutes," he said.

I gave them ten minutes.  Then I gave them ten more.  And ten more. Then I started to get a little excited.  I was perfectly reasonable with the excitement.  I began walking in circles and repeating over and over, "Oh my God, they're lost, they're never coming out..."

Jeff took a swig of water and said, "I'm going in after them."  It was dramatic.  I would have been turned on except my boys had disappeared in a hole.

He squeezed on in through the hole....and disappeared.  He didn't come out.  Jules had a dark, faraway look in his eyes as he said, "It just goes on forever and ever..."

I started yelling into the hole again.  No response. I began the pacing business, and Jules, being the little barometer that he is, became alarmed and began pacing, as well.  We began feeding on each other's panic.  I yelled down the hole some more.  Jules yelled down the hole.  Jasper offered to go in after them.  I finally took in a deep breath and yelled one last time and then I heard a faint response. "Oh my God...WHAT? Would you stop yelling at me?!?"

Jeff was still alive! And he was bringing out my boys! Jules and I did a happy dance.  We'd been so silly.  Hilarious. Ha ha...we'd laugh about it later.  We thought the boys had disappeared into a hole - how ridiculous!  Jeff climbed out and he had an adorable smudge of dirt on his face. I threw my arms around his neck.  My hero! I looked expectantly at the hole. 

Nobody else came out.

"Seriously?" I shouted. "You freaking LOST MY KIDS IN A HOLE? Who told them they could go in the dang hole in the first place?  You dared to come out without my boys? Really? AGAIN?"   

"They're not lost," he said with a grin.  A GRIN. "They're down there in that hole."

"You mean the way Baby Jessica was not lost because she was down there in that well?" I shrieked.  Yes folks, I shrieked.  Then I started mumbling a bunch of nonsense and insisting that Somebody needed to Go Get Help.  "Find the Baptists!" I shouted.  "Send them in after my boys!"

"Dude, I think you're having an actual Panic Attack," Jeff said.  "Like not a fake one.  An actual panic attack! Cool!" Then? He tried to hug me.  And then? He began describing to Jules how he'd crawled down multiple levels and had to use the flash on his phone in order to keep from falling and dying.  He had thoroughly enjoyed himself.

"My babies are trapped in a hole," I said through gritted teeth. "And one of them isn't even mine.  YOU call Nicole and tell her we lost her kid down a hole."

"They'll come out eventually," he said.  That made me crazy.  "You want a granola bar while we wait?"  That made me crazier.  Camille and Jasper each took a granola bar and settled down as if they were at the circus.  They were not alarmed at all - I've completely desensitized them to trauma and I feel badly about that, believe me.  But what I feel worse about was how Jules was spinning and looping and worried as hell.  I couldn't help him at the moment, though, because his brother and friend were MISSING.  In case you haven't figured it out by now, I am not anybody's idea of a Calming Presence.

I started to cry.  And then?

"Hey guys, what's happening?"  Joel and Austen stood on a ridge above us.  They had come out a DIFFERENT HOLE. 

They were quickly filled in on the drama they'd missed.  They found it amusing.  As we climbed back down the rock, yelling at Jasper to slow down the entire way, I told Jeff, "You have to promise me, PROMISE ME, that if I die in a fiery crash..."

"Because it would totally be in a fiery crash," Jeff said.

"When I die in a fiery crash, you will not let the kids jump off a cliff because they think it might be fun.  I have to know that someone will be responsible for their safety."

"Sure thing," he said as Jasper climbed up a boulder with his full approval.

I just have to live forever. No problem.

Here's a picture of Camille heading back down the rock after a full day of hiking and hysteria.  Because that's how we roll.

The boys were waiting for us as we approached the trail head.  See how close to the edge of that boulder Jules is precariously balanced? I was all out of adrenaline so I just shrugged it off.
Until tomorrow,
Signing Off as Sardine Mama, the Fairly Lame Protector of Teenage Boys

Monday, March 12, 2012

It Takes Some Balls

So during my blogging break things kept happening and I would think, this would be funny to blog about, only I wouldn't because I was taking a blogging break.  I probably can't remember all of them, but I can remember a few.  Since it is Monday - I'm going to try to do a M thru F Things I Should Have Blogged About And Didn't series.  What do you think?

I'm spinning my Mental Wheel.....and I've landed on what I shall call the Balls in Politics Story.

Oh! And I'm NOT going to blog about Rush.  I'm so totally not going to do that.  Although, if I WERE going to do that - I would say he's an A-Hole.  Right now, at this very moment, I'm strongly resisting the urge to talk about Rush.  Like....trying REALLY hard not to. 

I resisted! I did!  My pulse is still up a bit - but I resisted.  I'm going to talk about Texas Politics as I experience it on a daily basis.  Here's my blog-worthy story:

I had pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store and was gathering up all of my Liberal Commie Canvas Reusable Bags.  My door was open while I did this, and a gentleman approached me.

He had an impressive ZZ Top beard, a gimme cap, and a big smile.  I wasn't alarmed at all - he was grinning from ear to ear.  Honestly, I thought he was going to ask me if I had jumper cables or something ridiculous like that - I mean - I'm sure I have some but honestly.... 

"Howdy," he said, tipping his gimme cap and grinning.

"Howdy," I said.  Because we're in Texas.

Camille pokes her head over from the back seat.  And we wait, expectantly, for this gentleman to ask us if we have jumper cables or possible $1 for the Mad Dog Fund.

He chuckles a little, winks, and says, "Girl, you got some balls with them bumper stickers."

I had not expected that.  He walked off, shaking his head and chuckling, and when he drove off?  He had Honest To God Balls hanging from his truck.
I wanted to shout, "No, dude! YOU have balls!"  But I was kind of in shock from the attack on my bumper stickers.  Now then, unless this guy has something against large families or the Red Hot Chili Peppers...

I think he might have been talking about these...
They're old and I need new ones.  But seriously, I think this is what he was referring to.  'Cause we're in Texas. And this was seen as unusual and alarming.  And it's just the beginning, because once the Republican primaries are over - I'm going to start getting The Finger on a regular basis and I really hate that.  Especially when I have my kids in the car and people whiz past (often with a Christian Fish Symbol) and flip us off with all kinds of class and whatnot.  At least the parking lot guy didn't do that.  He just said "balls" in front of my precious 9-year-old daughter.  By the way, when telling this story, I am often asked what I said in response.  I do not recollect saying anything, but Camille assures me that I said Thank You.  I can believe this because, when push comes to shove and I am speechless, I can totally see myself falling back on my sweet southern girl manners.

"You've got balls, little lady!"

"Why, thank you sir!"

Yeah.  Apparently, it went something like that.

While I'm bizarrely posting pictures of my bumper stickers online, let me show you the rest.  This here is PROOF that I didn't wait until Rick Perry made a national spectacle of himself before withholding my support.  I voted for Bill White for governor - and I keep the sticker up because I'm: a) too lazy to remove it and b) just a tad bit obnoxious.
Signing Off With Balls,
Sardine Mama

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Remember Me?

Someone begged me to blog today. So here I am.

I wasn't kidding when I said I wasn't going to be blogging as much, was I?  Like I totally wasn't bluffing.  It was not an Idle Threat. I mean, I haven't blogged since Jan 14 and now it is March 1 and that is crazy.

Really, it's been so long since we've spoken - it's a bit awkward, no? 

Whenever I have time to write - I work on my manuscript.  Or I sit and think about working on my manuscript.  Or I read writing blogs or e-mail my writing buddy about how much writing sucks or I read books that I like to pretend are worse than mine. And really, that's kind of all I've been doing.  Ask the kids, they'll tell you.

Well, maybe I've been doing a few other things:

I've gone vegan.  For reals. I'm having a soy mocha at this very moment.  Watched Forks Over Knives and that did it for me.  I dropped 14 pds - easiest weight loss of my life.  Jeff's dropped about forty - which is insane.  Speaking of vegans and the Red Hot Chili Peppers - oh my - were we talking about the Red Hot Chili Peppers?  Well, we are now.  Look at this pic and see if you can spot the vegan!

Since we are now talking Chili Peppers - you guys know we have floor seats for the upcoming concert, right?  The one that is supposed to be next week?  Well, it's been postponed due to an injury Anthony obtained from the Stadium Arcadium tour (a million years ago) that never healed.  I'm telling you - OLD ROCK STARS SUCK. I should dump those guys. But who wants to start all over?

Speaking of concerts - last week we went to see Matisyahu.  We took Joel because he's a big fan.  My sister got the tickets without really paying attention as to what they were for - which is no big deal because we'd go see him regardless - but I wasn't prepared for a theater full of Chabad Lubavitchers and an Acoustical Evening of Inspiration.  This was a fund-raiser in an extremely small theater - really amazing.  It was just Matisyahu and his guitarist - awesome, awesome, awesome.  I could have done without the opening act, which consisted of rabbis talking and talking and talking and talking about what I can't tell you because I'm really not an opening act sort of girl - I'm a let's do dinner and miss the opening act kind of girl. And then the one time I show up on time it's a bunch of rabbis.

So now I have a God Awful Confession.  I really do.  You're going to hate me after you read this.  While we were watching everyone stream into the theater for the concert, I couldn't help but notice two young men walk in who looked different from everyone else.  I wasn't TRYING to look for people who stood out.  I was innocently minding my own business and trying not to stand out myself.  So yarmulke after yarmulke strolls in and then, as I said, these two guys and they are definitely Middle Eastern but not Israeli Middle Eastern.  One of them was wearing an Actual Members Only Jacket.  And all I could think of was that every Jew in S. Texas was currently in this theater - trapped in this tiny theater - crammed into this theater - and you know, these two guys walk in and I started to sweat.  They sat four rows in front of us.  I didn't say anything because DUH - that would make me a HORRIBLE PERSON.  Well, I didn't say anything at first.  But remaining silent (about anything) is not something I've ever quite gotten the hang of and so I leaned over to Joel, who was sitting silently next to me staring straight ahead because that is what teenage boys do when they're sitting next to their mothers, and I said, "So..."  and that's all I said! I swear! And he says, "Don't be a racist."  Which technically makes him a racist or he wouldn't have know what I was going to say.  But anyway, I told him I wanted to trade seats because they had a clear shot at him, and he's my baby, after all - and he refused to trade seats with me but did promise to reach over and use me as a human shield if the need arose and that, of course, made me feel much better.  I forgot all about those young men as soon as the music started.  But still - yeah, I carry the Shame.

It reminded me of the time Jules and I were in line to go through security at LAX when a Middle Eastern man was pulled out of line. He looked extremely irritated, as he had every right to be, and I went on and on to Jules about how his human rights were being violated and it was racial profiling and somebody should do something and we shook our heads and felt all indignant and outraged over the injustice being inflicted on that poor man.  We talked about it all the way to our plane.  And we talked about it as we sat on the plane, waiting for a final passenger, about how awful it was and what we had just witnessed and we were maybe going to write some letters and then the final passenger got on and it was The Poor Middle Eastern Man and I leaned over and said to Jules, "God, I hope they did a cavity search...."  I KNOW! I already said I'm a horrible person! Go ahead, I said you could judge me.

I'm on a roll now.  Just free-writing, as they say.

We had an anniversary! Our 26th.  Remember last year's? It was not that exciting.  Thank God. We rented a little house in the Texas Hill Country that was supposed to resemble a tiny chapel, and it did.  These were the front windows.

There were angels at the tops of the windows.

The chapel part isn't what drew me (although it was a lovely little home), it was the private hot tub on the deck.  From the hot tub you could look out at a flowing creek with a small waterfall.  It was quite lovely from that angle.

From that angle.  From the other angle? I had to look into the house whose backyard we were in!! Argh. I hate that.  I said I wanted secluded, and the agent told me this was secluded.  Dude - we live on 150 acres so I guess my idea of secluded is a little different than other folks' ideas of secluded.  Mostly the couple in the Big House just watched TV.  I know because I couldn't stop watching them watch TV.  Jeff would say, "Just come sit over here. Stop looking."  And I was like, "I can't.  Look, she made popcorn." And then he would look and we would both agree that she had made popcorn.

There was a guest book in the house.  I refuse to sign guest books because it just seems weird.  But I read every page.  People wrote where they were from, why they had come, what they did, where they ate....yada yada.  Everyone who wrote in the guest book talked about how nice the owners, Pat and Sandy, were.  Pat and Sandy were so nice! Loved Pat and Sandy! Hope to keep in touch with Pat and Sandy! So Jeff and I couldn't relax at all because we kept waiting to be ambushed by Pat and Sandy. Anytime a twig snapped, we thought it was Pat and Sandy.  Seriously, you know, do you want to be in the claw-footed bathtub celebrating your anniversary when Pat and Sandy finally decide to make their move???  It was nerve-wracking. It was a relief when it finally happened, although I don't think it was a relief for Pat. Or maybe it was Sandy.  Those are very sexually ambiguous names.

Jeff was running around the creek bed at 2 in the morning with a headlamp on, you know, like most normal men do...looking for kindling to keep the fire going in the fireplace.  And Pat (or Sandy) saw the light and thought maybe it was suspicious and he came sneaking up behind Jeff to see what he was doing and they startled each other and I'm not entirely sure that Pat/Sandy believed that he was looking for kindling instead of burying a body but nobody came looking to see if I was dead, which come to think of it, Pat/Sandy should have because he very well could have drowned me in the hot tub while they were busy eating popcorn - and then he was trying to dispose of the body because HELLO - it was 2 am and he was wandering around the creek bed with a flashlight strapped to his head!

Although, after 26 years, I think I'm safe.  If he was gonna do it, he'd have done it by now. Jules took this picture on our anniversary when we took the kids hiking.  And I like this picture.

Other News:
Camille danced in Copellia.  Here are pics. I hated being backstage - I am not good at it. She was precious and beautiful and perfect and I cried. 

Here are some pics of Camille - backstage.

And that is all....For Now. Let me know what you've been up to.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Friend Mark

You've probably read his comments on my blog.  He always signs off as Your Friend, Mark.  Actually, I'm not sure if he uses the comma.  I thought I was super special-like but then I found out  he signs comments on Other People's Blogs as Your Friend, Mark.  But on mine sometimes he just says, "m" and so that means I'm special, right? Does he do that on your blog or is it just mine?

No matter. Mark is funny. That's what you all love about him.  He's also a good husband and an exceptional father and a fine photographer. 

His family is facing an unbelievable struggle right now. A ridiculous, inhuman, nightmarish struggle.  You can learn more about his family's situation from this CNN feature.  YES THEY WERE ON CNN! It would be all fun and exciting if only it were about something how their dog saved the neighbors from a burning building or how they found buried treasure in their backyard. But it isn't.  It is about their desperation to keep their family together.

Please watch. And you can drop Mark a note to wish him good luck and tell him how handsome he looked on his blog.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 - It's a Wrap

2011 - Be Gone With Ye!  What am I saying? It wasn't that bad.  It wasn't bad at all.  It had some rough patches but every year does.

Let's wrap it up, shall we? 

2011 was the year Jeff and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Remember that?  We snuck off for a weekend and Ellie wrecked my sister's car and then hours later Joel broke Jules' hand during a Matrix Re-enactment.  So we hit the year running with a jolt of adrenaline and we just skidded into 2012 last night with nary a catastrophe.  On Wednesday we'll celebrate 26 years of marriage - but we're not sneaking off until sometime in February.  We have to align the planets first and make a few other arrangements - like alert the orthopedic surgeon we keep on retainer. 

In 2011 Jules turned 13 and Camille turned 9 the very next day due to poor planning on our parts.  It seemed all momentous at the time, but now, here they are turning 14 and 10 this coming weekend.  Whoosh! Times goes by so quickly.  Jules looks like a totally different kid.  BIG TIME CHANGES.  For one thing, he's almost as tall as his brother now.  This picture was taken in August, and now, just a few months later, Jules is only about an inch shorter than Joel.

And quite a bit taller than me!
For Jules 2011 is also going to be embedded in our memories as the year his brain tumor finally woke up.  After six years of monitoring, we'd begun to let ourselves hope that maybe it was just going to stay asleep - like - FOREVER.  But it didn't. Puberty startled it awake.  The last trip to the House Clinic  and St. Vincent's Hospital in Los Angeles was a traumatic one. 

Below is a pic I snapped of Jules heading down the hospital hallway with Jeff.  I remember being struck by the image of the two of them together; by how tall Jules was compared to the early days of the tumor, when he was but Jasper's age and oh-so-tiny.  But somehow, as I watched them walk away from me all I could see was how small and fragile he still seemed.  And really, how small and fragile his daddy looked, too.  Because that's how we feel as parents when faced with something like this: small and fragile and vulnerable and helpless - no matter how big and strong we appear on the outside. 
So 2012 will be the year we finally rid ourselves of the brain tumor.  It's a relief - but also a bit overwhelming, as you can probably imagine.  We head back to Los Angeles in April, and then surgery will probably happen in May.  It'll just be the three of us making the trip - being away from the other kids for something so intense will be difficult, but we're confident this is the group of doctors we want operating on our son.  

2011 was also the Year of My Abandonment....Ellie left for college - a long, drawn-out process of grief that you people suffered through the entire year.  After all the work of auditioning and interviewing and meeting and greeting - not to mention all of the hoops we jumped through as homeschoolers - she decided on a music school (the full scholarship plus money for summer European music festivals heavily influenced the decision).  So off she went and guess what?  I lived. And she's doing GREAT, of course.

                                                    2011 saw Joel go from THIS:


He did it in stages, it didn't all get sheared off in one sitting - that would have been too much for him.  But he likes it short now. He also got his first summer job (lifeguarding at the city pool), bought his first car (Ellie's old pimp car), and EARNED HIS FREAKING BLACK BELT!!
He's still making movies with GimliSnort - is saving for a better camera and can't wait to start playing with some new editing software.  He likes to do animation, but at a recent homeschool co-op meeting, he and his GimliSnort cohorts produced this little dandy in just a few minutes during lunch break.  So now they're hoping to branch out into Live Action (!!) films.  I love that you can hear our turkeys throughout the entire thing, inappropriately entitled, Chicken Kicken.

For Camille 2011 meant More Dancing.  She started the year with a promotion in ballet.  She now dances six hours/week at the studio and that is sure to increase with the next promotion.  But I'm hoping that won't happen during 2012 - at least not before we can sell The Bus and buy a smaller, more efficient car.  2011 was also the Year of the Cast for Camille.  We saw the same orthopedist we saw with Jules.  There are still two of our kids the man hasn't met.  Hopefully he won't meet them in 2012 or EVER.

Poor baby had to audition for The Nutcracker while wearing that cast! And swim, too, of course. Casts have come a long way since I was a kid!

For Jasper, 2011 was just one more year of Being In Charge of the World.  The little guy has it made.  He does what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants.  There can't be anything better than being seven years old in a non-authoritarian unschooling household.  His days are endless hours of playing and fun all strung together.  He has two older brothers who don't mind him following them around and acres and acres of land to explore. 

Jasper's never been a "joiner" - eschewing any and all attempts at encouraging him to participate in anything with set rules or expectations, but 2011 saw him taking on his first "Organized Activity" as he calls it.  He asked to try Tae Kwon Do - a request I readily heeded.  He's doing very well and has already earned his gold belt.

He also began some spotty participation in Homeschool Co-op in 2011....tackling Spanish, Sewing, Science, and Ancient History. Here he is in his first attempt at mummifying a chicken. 

2011 also saw the some of my Faves getting All Kinds of Active.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers released a new album, I'm With You.

AND for 2012 we already have tickets for two of the shows on the tour.  For the San Antonio concert??? We have FLOOR SEATS.  Just sayin'.  Also?  I received 3...count ' Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirts for Christmas. Although I am thrilled to death with the new album and the upcoming shows and my new t-shirts....2011 was NOT the year I got over this:

Sorry - but they were better with Frusciante.  Plain and Simple. 

Other Faves?  My favorite author I love to love wrote a new novel!

Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 was actually published in 2010 in Japan as a trilogy, but it was published in the US as a single volume in 2011.  I'd pre-ordered it and BOOM! in my Kindle the moment it was released.  It looks like it's IQ - as in "eye" Q - but it isn't.  It has connections to Orwell's 1984.  In Japanese, the letter Q and the number 9 are homophones....and so what is a witty play on words in Japan is merely hard to say in America.  I mean, the title is awkward.  I say it as One Q Eighty-four.  But I can't say it and look at it at the same time or I say Eye-Q Eighty-Four.  Sometimes I say 1984.  Anyway - I LOVE 1Q84 - no matter how you say it.  I understand it was nominated for the Bad Sex Award, but it only makes me love Murakami even more.

Speaking of Bad Sex and Authors and 2011 - The Author I'm Embarrassed to Love to Hate (and read) also had a new novel.  That's right, Laurel K Hamilton (I know - I'm pounding on my chest right now) released Hit List, the ninety-billionth book in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series.  I read every page in one sitting. 

And speaking of vampires (how DID we end up speaking of vampires?), 2011 was also the year Jeff and I became COMPLETELY ADDICTED TO "V".  That's right mah friends, we are hooked on True Blood.  I know! We just keep getting classier and classier over here! But how can you not love it?  It's like those guys on the History Channel who wrassle gators only they HAVE FANGS.

Other than that, we haven't expanded our horizons too much.  We pretty much ended the year the same way we started it, which of course, is always the anti-climactic catch to New Year's. 

Nonetheless - the New Year brings a new calendar (albeit with many of the exact same commitments and appointments that dotted 2011's calendar).  It's sure to be challenging - the year I'm not challenged with something or by someone is the year I'm dead - and it's going to be a bit frightening at times - but there are going to be plenty of sweet parts in between.  At least, that's the way it's worked EVERY SINGLE PREVIOUS YEAR.  Call me crazy, but that's what I'm 'specting for 2012. And I'm wishing the same for you!