Monday, April 28, 2008

"I Commend My Spirit"

The thing about being in one's forties is that there's a humbling amount of perspective.

As I look behind me and see the wee charmers nipping at my heels and then look ahead of me and glimpse the sometimes quick and easy slide to the grave, it's hard to have a big-picture sense of importance, consequence, bangin'itude.

But then I remember that night in high school when I went to my dad's college (he didn't actually own it outright; it was more of a time share dealie) to sit on a folding chair out in the middle of the football field.

You might be thinking this was my way of lodging a protest against the game of football--of me staging a sit-in to make the point that human kitchen appliances deliberately slamming themselves together under the guise of "strategy" is a proposition approximately as ludicrous as Owen "Pass the dutchie to the lefthand side" Wilson playing a former soldier of fortune in Drillbit Taylor.

However, that night in the early 1980's, I perched upon a folding chair out on the football field, anticipating something far more exciting than the prospect of getting cuffed and having my limp, Martin-Sheeny body dragged protestingly off to jail. You see, I was poised on the turf to watch Billings, Montana's first ever out-of-the-doors performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was a premiere event I was attending at Rocky Mountain College, there under the big spotlights.

On the 50-yard line.

In my Flashdance-ripped sweatshirt and patterned overalls.

Then the lights fell, and first, there was nothing.

It was like a slow, glowing dream--a dream that my fear seemed to hide deep inside my mind.

What a feeling.

Wait a minute. That feeling wasn't me having rhythm now, nor was it Mary Magdalene despairing that she didn't know how to love the sandal-clad superstar that was Jesus. Nay.

That feeling was my soft contact falling right off my eyeball and landing on my cheek.

Christ on a sports field. The show had just started, and there I was, grabbing my contact off my face, balancing it on my finger, trying not to drop it in the dusk. Within minutes, as I considered and then rejected a sprint to the bathroom (if I missed Judas' entrance, I'd completely lose track of the chain of events that would ultimately lead to Jesus pushing a big rock away from a cave entrance, rubbing his eyes blearily as he peeled the shroud from his body, picking up a few Cadbury eggs from beneath the bushes for sustenance, and then inventing Rolling Rock beer), I watched my contact lens teeter on my finger, buffeted by the wind, as it started to dry out.

What to do? What to do?

With less thought than I had applied to choosing potato cakes over curly fries at the Arby's earlier that day, I popped the thing into my mouth.

For the next two hours, from Gethsemane to King Herod to that cross business, I sucked gently on the lens. Neither speaking to my companions nor shouting "bravo" after the finale, I focused on keeping the lens nestled in its cocooning little cheek bed.

I remained quiet--some might have assumed reflective--all the way home, until I dashed into the basement bathroom, snatched up a bottle of saline solution, and popped that baby out of my mouth, shouting, "Gag, but that was illin'."

Due to my fortitude, though, the next day at school, when my friends asked me how I'd enjoyed the show, I was able to look them directly and clearly in the eye and report, "Actually, I only saw about half of it. But the righthand part of the stage looked great. So did the actors who stood there."

And so whenever I wonder if my life has importance, if I'll leave any mark, if there has been worth to this puny existence of mine,

I remember that night and the example I set for humanity.

Sure, Jesus was bitchin' out there on the football field, but I, with my admirable unflappability, was schweet to the max.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Just Sayin'"

This Is Just To Say**
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

This "found" poem, originally a note Williams stuck on the fridge for his wife--is both charmingly clear and provocatively ambiguous, much like Barack Obama on the stump.

On the surface, this poem is just a "Toots, don't even bother looking for those plums, as they are coursing through my personal digestive plumbing this very minute" communique.

More intrepid readers might take their explication in the direction of sex--to the ripe sensuality of those cold plums that creates a desire to plumb through the juice and burrow right down to the pit. In fact, I'm pretty sure Jay-Z married Beyonce the other week just so he could devour the fruit jiggling around in her icebox without ever venturing off-site.

Perhaps equally interesting is the tack of looking at this poem as an apology, specifically as a pro forma apology. Pro-forma apologies go through the motions and creak out the right words, but, because they are rote expressions and lack genuine sentiment, they ring hollow. Famous examples of the pro-forma would be Don Imus' forced public regret after demeaning the Rutgers' women's basketball team and a host of presidents, from Nixon to Reagan to Clinton to Current Guy, conceding "mistakes were made."

Personally, I get a bang out of how unapologetic "This Is Just To Say" is. It's pro forma beauty. Williams isn't sincerely asking for his wife's forgiveness; rather, he commands "Forgive me" as he wipes his chin with the napkin. He minimizes her excitement about eating the plums, chuffing that she was "probably" saving them for breakfast.

Now, WCW, I think you and your wife both remember how you stood idly by as she cut off her hair and sold it at a beauty parlor down the avenue, just to earn enough money to buy those plums. Then, when you took the car keys and wouldn't drive her to the store to get the fruit, she walked five miles, each direction, to the Rainbow Foods. At the store, of course they were out of bags, so Wifey then had to trudge all those miles home with the plums stuffed into her arm pits, staving off coughs and sneezes and all fruit-bruising bodily contortions for the entire hour and a half it took her to get back. Naturally, once she arrived home and opened the icebox, she discovered the thing was stuffed with squirrel cadavers that you were "keeping cool" until your next taxidermy session down in the wood-paneled basement. No room for plums in there, you told her. But she was tenacious. That night, after you went to bed, she crept in to the kitchen and took out one, ONE, of your seventeen squirrels and put it in your beer cooler, just so she could tuck her gorgeous plums into the fridge for even a few hours. All she ever wanted was a cold plum for breakfast the next morning, a plum that would take her back to the summer of '35, when she and her mother shared the perfect plum on a picnic blanket one afternoon at the zoo, three days before her mom suffered the aneurysm that cut her life short. These plums were closure, William Williams. There was no "probably" about them.

But then you cavorted into the kitchen that morning, your face freshly-shaven, knowing your wife was upstairs ironing your shirt and wouldn't be down for ten more minutes...and you. et. her. hard-won. plums.

That measly note, you know, the one that stressed how delicious were the plums she would never taste, well it screamed past pro forma tacky and plummeted directly into Right Bastard.

You didn't mean a word of apology, you power-tripping ogre.

Or maybe you'd bought the plums a week before, and they were about to go off, and since your wife had the flu and couldn't keep any food down, you went ahead and ate them.

Whatever the circumstances behind its writing, the template of this poem and the dismissive logic of its undercut apology have become widely known and spoofed.

For example:

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams
by Kenneth Koch

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!


Sorry But it was Beautiful
by Andrew Vecchione (6th Grade)

Sorry I took your money and burned it
but it looked like the world falling
apart when it crackled and burned.
So I think it was worth it after all
you can't see the world fall apart
every day.

OR, as someone monikered "Anonymous" wrote to J.K. Rowling:

This Is Just To Say

I have killed
the wizard
who was in
your novels

and whose death
you were probably
for book seven

Forgive me
he had it coming
so beardy
and so old


This is Just to Say
by Jason Nicholas

I have pulled the
Pin from that grenade
On the desk.

Forgive me.
I thought it was
My keyring,

My drawn-out go at this poem is inspired by fellow blogger Minnesota Matron, whose recent post about an arse-paining student gave me great comfort, in a week when I've been wrangling again with the alcoholic student in one of my classes who caused me to lose much sleep a few months back.

This is Just to Say
by Jocelyn Teacher

I'm sorry you went off your meds
in the '90s
and started to drink constantly

and lie more frequently than you drink
which you probably are unaware of
even as you email me every day that you've
missed class because you were bed-ridden and
your grandmother died repeatedly and your friends
all died, every single one of them.

Forgive me for being a poor teacher, as you
told the dean last week when you appealed the
Failure for Non-Attendance grade I'd assigned.
In your version, my lack of teaching is somehow related to
your having diahrrea for seven weeks which meant you couldn't
come to class.

I'm sorry your absences weren't at all alcohol related.
The dean, and then the registrar, and then the Vice President
might have had some sympathy for that.

A delicious and sweet and cold martini will be great solace to you
during your academic probation
for which you must forgive me.

**shout out to National Public Radio's "This American Life" program, which planted much of this in my mind

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Riddle You That"

Overheard tonight here at the compound:

Groom to me: "Wow. Good thing we have these paper towels--because this thing is dripping with honey."

Any guesses?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Duluth, Minnesota Versus Manhattan, The Island"

Groom and I have been feeling lately that we have too much time and money and not nearly enough stress. It's all "wake up late, stare at the lake, water the seedlings, play some Doodle Dice, go for a trail run, grill a pork roast, read in Jeffrey Toobin's THE NINE about the appalling politicization of the Supreme Court, sit on the curb and chat with the neighbors, and hunker down to await the next hawk migration." Frankly, with the low blood pressure that accompanies such an easy pace, we fear we may live to 95.

And if we're alive at 95, there's a very strong chance that the next Bush generation will have had time to ascend to power. Clearly, we'd go to any lengths to avoid witnessing the reign of facism carried out by "Governor Jenna of Ohio." Indeed, rather than face this prospect, it might be time to undertake some lifespan-shortening.

So we're thinking of moving to Manhattan. There, we could feel the pain of wallet-strapping restaurants, chest-clutching rents, X-ray-thin socialites, and gasps of toxic air--tradeoffs that could kill us younger but still leave behind grinning corpses.

Because His Groomishness and I like to make well-informed decisions, I've been compiling a list of comparisons between Duluth and Manhattan. When the list has reached its final, exhaustive stage, I fully plan to let it slide off the kitchen table and fall behind the radiator, where it will live for three months until the next sweeping up. After the compilation is completed and lost, I'll head outside to lay on a blanket and play Skip-Bo under the apple tree.

1. Hell, the first big difference would be the quality of footwear. In Manhattan, we'd be under constant pressure to have well-shod hooves, no matter the cost or teetering involved. On the other hand, the only pressure in Duluth is to wear water-ready shoes that proudly proclaim, "We ain't afeard of the uglies."

2. Transportation in Manhattan is all yellow, dirty, and jammed. In Duluth, we're more about not slamming into the forest beasts while mentally figuring out which color of wax to apply to our cross-country skis once we get to the trailhead.

3. New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is an old richie fogart who serves as trustee at the Museum of Modern Art, while Duluth's mayor, Don Ness, is an avid skateboarder who recently learned to finger paint.

4. In Manhattan, $325,000 will get you a solid chunk of urban grit, while the same, in Duluth, will net a house that serves as a realistic backdrop for games of "I'm Franklin Delano Roosevelt's mistress, and he does so like it when I sport my feather boa atop a saucy smile."

5. Schools are competitive in Manhattan. If your kid is lucky enough to score an education, it will be spotted with French lessons and staid craft projects like this:

In Duluth, however, we get real with the craft projects. Our preschooler classes work cooperatively and messily to create near-life-sized dinosaurs which are subsequently, upon completion, raffled off and sent home with the "lucky" kid whose name is drawn from a basket woven out of our region's ubiquitous icicles.

Guess what? In our case, the slip of paper with the words Niblet Paco Dinko fairly leapt out of that icicle basket during the drawing, and before we could shout, "Holy Monty Hall, we didn't actually want you to reach in that basket and pull out our kid's name because, fer Christ, even in our relatively-spacious Duluth home, where the pajeebus are we going to put a huge dinosaur?" the thing was loaded into the back of a pick-up truck and driven to our address, where the aforementioned Paco Dinko of Niblet Fame stood jumping and clapping on the front sidewalk as the thing was unloaded, hardly able to believe, at age five, that this life he was living was really so very magical and wondrous.

In true "we don't squawk here in the Midwest but just remain stoic in the face of whatever comes, again and again and again, whether it's the latest Bush generation to seize power or an unexpected preschooler project come home to roost," the Groom and I looked at each other, shrugged, and squeezed the carnivore onto the front porch next to the scooters and trikes.

Try toting this thing home on the Subway, Manhattanites!

Her name is Lily Sparkly Sparkly, and if you err and mistakenly call her Lily Sparkle Sparkle, you will be soundly reproved by an indignant five-year-old who hugs the old paper mache gel quite protectively as he scolds you.


Clearly, then, all the list-making and pro-ing and con-ing was for naught. We'd never manage to fit Lily onto an airplane seat, even in First Class, to make the flight to Manhattan.

Plus, she has a rather sordid history with Michael Bloomburg; should she turn up in his city and sell her tales of pomegranite martinis and ripped camisoles to the tabloids, he'd have to resign.

And damn it if the young Barbara Bush wasn't overheard last week in the Oval Office, yawling, "Daaaady, I shore would like me a mayorship in some big city somewheres, you know, where I could live in a mansion and shop at Barney's and gather 'round me a circle of Wall Street beaux. Any ideas, Daaaaaaady?"

To avoid that troubling possibility, we've decided to stay put in Duluth, where we'll continue to wear our ugly Keen shoes; teach our mayor to use scissors; knock about our cheap and crowded house; dodge moose on the roadways--and keep a muzzle on the sparkly dinosaur.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Aloha Pillow Talk"

I often trudge, stone-faced, through the hours of 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

At 8:01 p.m., however, I go all Tom-Cruise-On-Oprah's-Couch.

Without fail, once darkness falls, the quarter slides into my internal jukebox, and I light up, song lyrics tumbling from my lips; spontaneous-yet-well-choreographed musicals high kicking it in the kitchen; animated one-way conversations with the creators of The Wire perking out of my mouth; grocery lists for the Girl's quinceanera party (in seven years) scritching on to paper; Scrabulous tiles, particularly the "q" without a "u," pouring onto the board; slates of enemies receiving a well-deserved in absentia back-stabbing; blog posts sliding out of the birth canal, still slathered in vernix.

If I were a Magic Treehouse book written by formulaic-yet-educational children's authoress Mary Pope Osborne, I would be entitled Mania in the Moonlight. You would not buy me, even from the clearance shelves at Barnes & Noble. Instead, you would back away slowly, refusing eye contact (How dippy are you for that? I'm a book, you twittering fool. I don't have eyes), easing the blow by feigning an interest in the gnome calendars, magnetic poetry kits, and color sudoku books that lodge up front by the cash registers.

Fortuitously, my night-time energies play nicely into the fact that I'm one of the twenty-nine married women in Minnesota who still look affectionately at their husbands and think, "Yea, I could hit that." Indeed, once I've stretched out and folded up my leg warmers after the high kicks, jazz hands, and pas de bourrees by the refrigerator, I often still have enough steam to go tackle My Man.

As it turns out, when I'm really in the throes of the Night Time Happies, I can also get giggly. Loopy. Babbley and burbley in the boudoir (take that, Mary Pope Osborne).

The other night, my state of laughing gabble just about derailed us. As we lay there, working into an esprit d'amour, I just could not stop yucking and yacking, blicking and blacking. Every time I'd move in for the kiss, a snortle would come blowing out my nostrils.

Yea. I know. Hot.

Finally, I did a few slow breaths and announced, "I just have to stop thinking of things that crack me up. I need a change of mental scenery. So, okay, we're going to..." I stumped around, looking for an appropos locale, "...Sexy Island now."

When I get snortley, I also get prodigiously lame.

Ever my willing playmate, though, Groom joined in. "So what's on Sexy Island?"

"Well, there'd be monkeys, for sure."

Cuz, you know. Monkeys in a Love Fantasy imply, welllllllllllllll, swinging and peeling.

Groom knows my brain; he free associated right into the peeling. "Yea, monkeys. What else?"

Upping the ante, I noted, "I'm pretty sure there's buried treasure on Sexy Island, from some pirates. They're a bad, bad lot, aren't they? Very naughty?"

Groom was with me: "Yea, okay, treasure. I can dig that. And I'll be more than happy to lay hands on your booty and shiver your timbers. "

After that, it was quiet for a beat.

Another beat.

Then the Hot Mess that is Groomeo queried, "But is there poi on Sexy Island?"

Afternote, to be read while smoking a cigarette and running a hand through your rumpled hair:

Yes, yes, there was poi bubbling over the fire that night. And what a way to find out that the consistency of poi is often described as being either "two-finger" or "three-finger."

I am a fan of life-long experiential learning.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"Sound of the Funky Drummer"

I am an enormous pain in the hinders.

On the other hand, I am also a tuition-paying student at the Flava Flav School of Elusive Charm.

Flav and me? We tote our clocks; we sport our grillz; we hook up with statuesque Nordic types; we view life as a cost-effective backdrop to our own VH1 reality show; we throw down internal rhymes while honing prosody, cadence, and speed. In fact, we can only be distinguished from each other by the fact that he looks like a crack-addicted tambourine player in the subway, and I look like the long-lost Gabor sister exiting a particularly-harrowing roller coaster ride.

From the School's monthly newsletter, I've also learned that Flava and I share a dislike of getting up in the morning and becoming functional human beings. Sure, we has the kids, but we can't be bothered to raise them until at least mid-morning. Until 10:30 a.m., we just have to tape one of these

on our faces and put a like sign over the vodka and matches, hoping the wee ones are literate enough to decipher the message. If not, the resulting combustion of fire and booze is simply framed, for the benefit of the police, as "science."

Truth is, it's fortunate that Flav is a semi-absentee dad. And it's fortunate that I married the anti-Flav, the stand-up guy named Groomeo.

See, His Groomishness lets me have a lie-in whenever possible. Like the other day, after I'd been up 'til 2 a.m. grading online class assignments (and, admittedly, playing some Webkinz games to earn enough Kinz cash to redecorate the apartment of my birthday-gifted elephant, Cornucopia), I got up the next morning for about 45 minutes with the fam--throwing water and food towards the children--and then went back to bed. Up again at 11 a.m., I felt a fair bit refreshed. (Across the continent, I pictured Flav peacefully wiped out on a slightly-tatty heart-shaped waterbed, mouth wide open, sawing logs with dem toofs of his.)

At 11 a.m., although I was actually upright and speaking in staccato phrases, the kids were all bickery, with thirty seconds of harmony between them being a far-off dream. At one point, two hours into my wakefulness, they were fighting about whose turn it was on the big red balance ball and on what part of the floor the balance ball should sit when it was someone's turn and for how long that someone should be allowed to stay on the balance ball and why it wasn't fair that someone else would always get longer and a better spot on the floor when it was time to be on the balance ball and how they never actually got a turn for anything or a good spot for it, and it was all I could do not to dial 1-800-Flav and get my mentor on a jet to Duluth.

Cuz, Maynard? We may be podunkish here, but truth is that my city of 80,000 happens to be situated perfectly for refueling between California and England-type-lands, which means, hand to heaven, celebrities like Bono sometimes sit on our tarmac for the gassing up. And if Bono can do it, you better believe Flava could situate his wiry buns on some big, cushy seats and sip pomegranate martinis while coming to my aid. As a bonus, the flight attendant would help him re-set his clock when they landed, taking into account the time difference.

At any rate, as the kiddles impersonated Richard Burton and Liz Taylor at their finest that morning, I was hard pressed to be the adult--or even the Sandy Dennis--in the room, in the face of such a quarrelsome duo. I tried a bit of talky-negotiation, but they just ramped up more.

Exasperated, I finally proclaimed, "Well, then, you're both being buttheads, and you deserve each other" before marching up the stairs, where I turned to Groom and asked, "Would you call that my finest parenting moment of the day so far?"

Assuring me it was, and that I could hardly be expected to feel more kindly toward the ingrates, what with my having been up 'til 2 a.m. the night before playing Atomolicious so I could afford to buy my elephant a new reed-and-lily-pad desk, the Groom patted my arm with great affection.

Which is why I'm thinking it's fortunate I married him and not Flav. Were we the sole adults in charge, FF and I would've grated the kids into a bowl of grits (protein-fortification!) years before.

And then we'd have called in the cameras before picking up our spoons.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

"Just Where I Am"

I'm typing this while sitting atop a brick red duvet, leaning back against a bright-purple down pillow. On the tv is a re-run of the Saturday Night Live hosted by Tina Fey (blogging troubador Furiousball best described her as "one of the women I'd like to lick the make-up off of" some months back); right now, Carrie Underwood, wearing some pleated and atrocious rip-off of a 1950's cocktail dress, is belting Idol-style and shaking her unnaturally-golden tresses.

Other times, that screen features the mug of Bawbwa Wawters and her View Crew, Craig Ferguson making me contemplate adultery, and Dinosaur King rocking the youth on Saturday Morning cartoons. Oftentimes, the images on that screen bore rather than entertain, making me glad it's rarely on.

My gaze wanders to the wall-hung quilt my mom made for Dinko (incidentally, the Niblet has also chosen the name "Paco" for himself; to my delight, I get to holler, at dinner time, "Get yer wee rounded tush down here for edamame and eggs, Paco Dinko").

The fabrics in this quilt are from my grandmother's old dresses; Grandma started cutting the pieces for the quilt before she died in 1974. My mom took over her project and finished it in 2007. I think it's a Dresden Plate pattern, and I adore that my mom can sit in front of it and tell a story of her mother wearing a dress made out of the red-and-white gingham, of her mom making dinner in the flowered calico. I look at this quilt and am reminded my mom's enduring devotion to her own mother. I look at this quilt and am profoundly grateful that it will follow my son into his adult life (Mom made another of these for my Girl, too, so no nattering about how maligned she is).

On the stand next to my side of the bed are a couple stacks of books. On the top of one stack is my reading lamp, which is meant for a desk and casts the beam too low for bed reading. So I've hefted the light up to the peak of a stack of five books: a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (the kids do love hearing about The Showoff Cure), an advance reader's copy of a book "coming in November 2006" (guess I'm running late); The Boys of My Youth, a Jo Ann Beard book gifted to me by my best reading source and finest galpal; The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser, which I'm sifting through a second time, having just read the light fiction The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (boy, did factual history not restrain that version!); and a book of poetry, Mean Time, a Carol Ann Duffy volume gifted to me last Christmas by one of my favorite blog maidens, Glamourpuss. These are the books that sustain my light. In the other stack on my nightstand, I have my active-reading pile: Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral; The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea, loaned to me by a highly-patient neighbor more than a year ago; and I'll Drink to That, another advance reader's copy--this one a story of the French peasant who brought Beaujolais to the world. All of these, plus five thousand more, are my posse.

Behind me hangs a big painting made by my kids one sun-dappled Fall afternoon almost four years ago, out on the deck. They made that painting on one of those rare afternoons when parenthood--when having young kids--felt as easy and gratifying as an episode of thirtysomething would have had us believe. Everyone was happy. Everyone wanted to be doing what we were doing. Everyone was in a groove, got off The Mommy, and painted. Even better, they painted their feet and hands and skated across the huge swath of paper I'd taped onto the deck. It was painting Olympics. It was my life as a highly-rated and -reviewed one-hour drama.

Over on Groom's side of the bed is everything else, for he is not tidy. He gets the clock radio, as I don't believe in keeping time or getting up in the morning. He gets the Kleenex box, as my nose shouldn't run. He gets the stack of Presidents of the United States cards, the fleece "sleeping bag" that a stuffed animal is supposed to inhabit, the hand salve, the massage lotion, the condom wrappers, the cough drops. On the floor beneath the stand is a waterfall of Cook's Illustrated and Gourmet magazines, fleshed out by a book of NY Times crosswords and a curious bit of non-fiction entitled American Shaolin.

All of this visual gratification inhabits one mere corner of our bedroom, one ten-by-ten foot space. Eleven feet out, there is everything else in the world: the desktop computer; the sleeping children (they of huge blue eyes and mouths that only get wiped when I notice the Oreo crumbs); staircase after staircase; uneven ground in the yard outside; cars that take us to new mundane daily tasks and big life adventures; the fifth largest body of fresh water in the world (two blocks from our collects pack ice in the winter and sparkles with diamond dust in the summer); friends I haven't met yet; traffic weaving helter-skelter across the asphalt.

It's all out there: what I know intimately; what I have yet to encounter; the changes that will be wrought by future decades.

It's all out there. For forty-one years, I have always negotiated the world with a certain confidence, even when I have felt a wreck. At least I've always been able to open the front door and take off on a restorative run, no route in mind, just winding and turning along new roads and paths, letting the alchemy of waving leaves and unexpected deer and Spring wildflowers turn my dross into gold.

But now, at the moment of writing this, I question my future as a place of easy confidence. Rather, I feel paralyzed by uneven terrain, by all the options and vagaries of the world.

Three weeks ago, my optometrist, after a series of tests, joined rank with my childhood optometrist, who noted when I was seven, "If your eyesight keeps up at this rate, you'll be blind by thirty-three."

Actually, the verdict three weeks ago differed a bit (she'd have to be a pretty crappy optometrist to examine this sighted forty-one-year-old and declare me a blind thirty-three-year-old); rather, her musing was, "How are you forty-one with glaucoma?"

At last year's appointment, she'd noticed a not-completely-health optic nerve, but a follow-up test proved things were still within normal range. This year, though, she saw a notch in one of my optic nerves, even clearer in photos of my eyes then taken, backed up by a loss of peripheral vision in a visual field test.

The diagnosis was veering, rather frightfully, towards glaucoma. She wanted me to come back for a couple more tests.

In the two weeks of waiting for those tests, I put the poor Google through its paces. On the positive side, a diagnosis of glaucoma is no longer what it was 20 years ago: a sentence that one is on a steady march to blindness. In fact, there are ways to treat glaucoma these days, most often with thrice-daily eyedrops.

Of course, the eyedrops have possible side effects. Like darkened vision. Loss of libido. Depression.

So, should it prove to be glaucoma, it would seem that I can keep my vision, such as it is, so long as I'm willing to spend the rest of my life as a dried-up, flattened, stumbling husk of a gal.

During the follow-up tests two weeks later, the doc checked my eyes' "superior ridge." The resulting graphic print out shows a suspicious dip in that ridge. On the other hand, other parts of the testing look okay.

The bottom line is that the doc is reluctant to give me a lifetime diagnosis and start me on 50 years of meds unless everything points to glaucoma. Since only 2/3 of the results do, and since the vision decline is so glacial in pace, we're in a holding pattern.

I'll go back in 4 months and retest, and freak it if I can't cram for or cheat on this one.

Trust me, between now and then, and for every day thereafter, well into my audio-book-rich dotage, I'll treasure even the smallest glimpse of the fakey Carrie Underwood, the assiduously-maintained Barbara Walters, the loving quilt on the wall, the grins on the kids' faces, the compost bin in the backyard, the puddles in the alley, the cheese melting on my enchilada, the birch trees flanking the trail, the toilet paper as it swirls down the hole.

I am suddenly and profoundly less casual about it all.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Species: Dinkus Dorkus"

So have you ever thought to yourself, "Well, now, Martha, hasn't it been an age since we've had a nice photo with the kids? And looksie-looksie: we seem to be at that rare moment in time when everyone is clothed and within yodeling distance of a bath! Yes, let's do."

Clapping your hands together brightly, you line up the troops, warn them sternly that we actually want a nice photo this time--no "Look how Niblet smeared his quesadilla all over his torso; isn't that precious?" pictures today. No, this will be one we can show the great-grandparents next time we brave the 85 degree indoor temperatures and go visit them in The Home.

So everyone's really trying here.

But pretty quickly,

you realize it ain't gonna happen. The vibe is off. Clearly, everyone had way too big a bowl of Slack Muscle Flakes for breakfast.

No matter how much you try to look like regglar folk, attempt after attempt,

everyone seems to be embracing his/her Inner Eejit. We try to look natural, but somehow we continue to look just as creepily "wrong" as Priscilla Presley's post-op face.

So whaddya going to do?

For us, it was back to normal. Dropping all pretense, we ditched the clothes and laid off the bathing.