Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Taste of Love (Part 1 of 2)

It is 1976, the year of the American bicentennial, and the place is Fayetteville, Arkansas. In the early evening of a long, warm day, a young mother is on her way home from work, her mind on that evening's meal. This is a frequent and typical concern, but on this occasion, the concern is not just one of menu-planning. This time, there's more to worry about.

She's worried because, as is common in these days, since she moved her family to Fayetteville so that her husband could finish the last few credit-hours required to finish his B.S. and go back to coaching, this time as a teacher as well...there is no money. Not only that, but she knows that there are no groceries to speak of in the house. And payday isn't until tomorrow, for either her or her husband.

She even goes so far as to gather up all the loose change in the car, hoping for enough to buy...something--something "decent" to feed her kids tonight. It will just be the girls and their mom tonight, because her husband is working one of his half-dozen jobs after his classes. At least he can eat at work for free. Unfortunately, there isn't enough change to add up to a dollar, much less to buy any real food. So she drives home, and on the way, she prays. She prays for "enough," and she prays with a faith that is solid enough to touch, to feel.

By the time she gets home and takes stock of the contents of the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, she's nearly distraught. She has always prided herself on making sure that her family is fed well, and nutritiously, with balanced, healthy meals, and it's becoming increasingly obvious that that just isn't going to happen tonight. Her daughters are thrilled to see her, and pass the time that evening before supper playing happily with each other and chattering busily at her about the events of their day.

Having finally made the decision that tonight's priority is just going to be getting some protein and calories into these kids, to fill their bellies enough for a good night's sleep, and last them until tomorrow's trip to the grocery store, she starts to work in the kitchen, in a state of upset. There's a box of macaroni and cheese mix. (She has time to be grateful that this meal is going to be "just us girls," because if there's any meal that is NOT a "husband-pleaser" in this family, it's boxed mac & cheese. Oh, he'll eat it, and thank her for making it, and never complain...but he'll do that tell-tale thing where he sits slightly sideways in his chair at the dinner table, as if to make a quicker getaway once the meal's complete. They've been married about 13 years at this point, and she knows his "tells.") There, in the bottom of the refrigerator, two--just two--hot dogs. A can of refrigerated biscuit dough. A can of pork & beans. And just enough milk to mix with the macaroni and give each of the two girls a small glass to drink. No green vegetable, but she can make up for that tomorrow. She goes to work with what she has, teeth gritted and fighting back tears, but wearing a brave, happy face for her daughters, who seem to just be happy to be there with her and with each other.

It's not much, so it doesn't take long to prepare. She sets the table, fixes plates, calls the girls, and sits down at the little table with them, preparing to say the blessing.

To be continued. For "the rest of the story," come back tomorrow. Happy Love Thursday and Last Day of NABLOPOMO, everyone!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Showdog P.R., Part 2
Dog-Blogging: It's SHOWTIME!

Because I'm realizing (at 10:40 P.M.) that I'm never going to finish the little story I'm putting together in time for the NABLPOMO-decreed deadline of midnight, and because the level of discourse in my home has deteriorated to the point that my husband just said to me, by way of clever retort, "Oh, YEAH? Well...YOU'RE oil!" (Yes, we were actually arguing about the properties and uses of FISH OIL. You don't?)

...I thought I'd share a couple of clips that the nice folks at Animal Planet were kind enough to send me.

These are "behind the scenes" looks at commercials--the second one, posted above, is really cute--that will air during the live coverage of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship Shows, airing this Saturday and Sunday at 8:00PM Eastern, 7:00 Central, simulcast on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel.

So check out the clips, watch the dog shows this weekend, and visit during the broadcasts to participate in the Eukanuba Viewer's Choice Awards, and vote for your favorite!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Recovery and Preparation

Recovering from the epic tree-trimming of yesterday. Preparing for the whole Santa Claus thing, since this will be our first year that Bella is really, REALLY into the whole scene. Most of the ideas she has relating to ol' St. Nick, she has picked up elsewhere--from little friends, cousins, television, Christmas specials, etc. She knows that she needs to write Santa a letter. She knows that somehow, she gets to see him, so she can ask him for her gift of choice, THE dollhouse. (Which reminds me, I only have until Dec. 3rd to order that and get a discount and free shipping, so remind me later, OK?) She knows that for this Santa visit, she gets to dress up and have her picture made, which is a HUGE draw.

As long as we avoid winding up in this gallery, I'll call that part a success.

Then there is the matter of actual Christmas Eve and morning. She knows that you are supposed to set out cookies and milk for the Big Guy, and is also of the opinion that the reindeer must have carrots. That should be fun to stage.

So, here's the challenge. Everyone knows that the excitement is in first checking for evidence of Santa's visit, meaning looking to see that he ate some cookies and drank some milk. Not a LOT, you understand, because that would be suspicious, since he's presumably eating cookies and drinking milk at every house in the world. And THEN you go to check the tree and your stocking. Our problem is that this is all taking place in the hearthroom, the central room of our home, and the stairs from Bella's room come down directly into this room. I'm hoping we can body-block her visually for a minute or two.

And yeah, I'm talking about Christmas a lot, and it's not even December. Sorry. But really, it's our first real grownup family Christmas in our first real grownup bought-together house-with-more-than-one-bathroom. And for the first time, we'll be "doing" Christmas morning in our own home before heading to visit other family, so we're starting our own family tradition NOW. And since Bella never. forgets. anything, the pressure, it is ON. I'm trying not to make myself too nuts about it, but I just don't want to wait until the last minute like I do with everything else, and forget some crucial element.

So. Here's a question for you Santa-Claus pros: When you were a kid, did Santa wrap your gifts, or not? For my sister and I, "Santa" gifts were always unwrapped, assembled, and ready to play with, while gifts from mere family members were wrapped. On the other hand, since Alex and I aren't buying a lot of gifts this year, there won't be too much in the way of wrapped gifts, and those are have them sitting under and around the tree for at least a couple weeks before Christmas was a delicious torture.

What's your call?

Now, for no reason, a couple of pictures I don't remember taking right before Thanksgiving dinner at Alex's mom's house:Contemplation of thankfulness...
YUP. Pretty darn Thankful!

Monday, November 27, 2006


I just finished hours of Christmas-tree decorating. Yep, finally wrestled that whole ribbon-thing into submission, and there is, I think, a solid 55 yards of ribbon on that tree. I had two spools, and didn't use all of the second one, so somewhere deep within the finished tree, there is a half a spool of ribbon fastened to a tree branch.

So now my back hurts, my shoulders hurt, and my previously-occupied-by-a-uterus-area is screaming, and I've been FULL of trepidation for days about the wisdom of investing in earth-tone Christmas-tree ornaments. I mean, seriously--chocolate/copper/gold is a good color scheme on ME, but on a Christmas tree? I had my doubts. But get it done I did, and afterward, as I lay in a heap on the floor at the base of the tree and looked up, I couldn't help think, "Ohhh, Yeahhhhhh. I like that."
Ahhhhhhhhh. DONE, I am! Well, except for figuring out what to do with the leftover ornaments, because if you think I put any on the side of the tree that's in the corner and not visible , you is delusional. I'm still impressed with myself for getting those flowers and crazy gold "sprays" on there and having it turn out looking NOT ridiculous. Here is the whole thing, and notice how the effect of the huganimous ornaments is to make this seven-and-a-half-foot tree look like a two-foot-high tabletop version. I DON'T CARE.
And yeah, I know you're not "supposed" to hang ornaments off those bottom limbs, but those were some huh-YOOGE balls (tee-hee), and I panicked. I may move them. I've already seen at least five other things I'm going to change, but I'm just too tired tonight.

So here I am, feeling like I've been beaten with a baseball bat, and like I just had abdominal surgery again, but with a smile on my face and a matching one in my heart, because now it feels like Christmas, our first one of many in this house. Between this and the bird-and-squirrel show outside my windows, it's definitely feeling like home. Now I have only to "let go" and give Alex and Bella free rein to decorate the "fun" tree in front of the living room window (If I move stuff when they're gone, you won't tell, will you?). I think I've made it abundantly clear that anyone who touches this one, does so on pain of death.

Here's one shot, without the flash, looking down through the limbs toward the floor. Click any of these pics to enlarge, and of course, there is more of this foolishness ri'cheer on flickr.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


You know how right outside our living room windows is a koi pond, surrounded by weeping holly, yucca, bamboo, and other plant-life? Well, we just realized the other day, as we watched several squirrels and birds come to drink from the pond, that this was our property's version of "the watering hole," and had the potential to become quite the little nature preserve for Bella. She gets really excited when a squirrel shows up outside the window, or she gets to actually see a bullfrog hop off a lily-pad into the water.

So last night, we picked up a couple of bird-feeders and a squirrel-feeder. One of the bird-feeders is a window model, that you mount with suction-cups to the outside of a window, so that you can then sit back and be entertained by the songbirds coming right up to your face (if you're very still) to sit and eat.

We have already had several visitors, and providing that Bella doesn't scream, "LOOK, A SQUIRREL!" they seem to be pretty happy to have the new food stations at their watering place. We may have to move the squirrel feeder, though, because the little critters are dropping seeds and corn-kernels into the koi pond, and the fish are trying to eat them, and I don't think that's it? We haven't put up the feeder that will hold the cardinal-attracting sunflower seeds yet, because we're looking for just the right place--far enough from the squirrels to discourage their raiding, and close enough to the house so that we can watch them. Next up, one or two of those window-mounted birdhouses, so that you can watch nest activity from inside your house.

And yes, the first cardinal visitor to the new birdfeeder will be christened "Yavier."

And? All my husband wants for Christmas is one of these. And NOT because he's interested in feeding the birds. I you think he realizes that the squirrels do not, in fact, say, "YEE-HAWWW?"

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Long Lazy Weekend With A Bullet

Or several.

  • I cannot whup the 4"-wide wired-cloth ribbon into submission and make it look right on my Christmas tree. If anyone knows the secret, and/or can provide a link to pictures, PLEASE share. I shall HAVE this ribbon on my tree, and I can't do the rest until I do this part.
  • My mom called to ask Alex to come over and help her figure out why parts of her nearly-new pre-lit tree wouldn't light, and by the time we left, he had literally re-wired parts of it to get it all working, and left her with a remote control to work the thing.
  • Having a Christmas-tree remote control made my mom do a happy-dance.
  • This is our first Thanksgiving without leftovers in YEARS.
  • Fresh pasta is REALLY good on a long Thanksgiving weekend.
  • We only had fresh pasta because we overheard my sister ordering up take-out, and it sounded good.
  • I really wish I knew how long I could expect to wait to be pain-free while walking around, because that hasn't happened yet, and there are lots of things I need to be walking around looking at right now. That's right, things need me to be walking around looking at them.
  • We had puppies.
  • We did not intend to have puppies this year--this came right smack in the middle of my "two-year puppy hiatus." So much for planning.
  • Guess who is responsible for us having puppies? I'll give you a hint: Counting backward from the delivery date, conception would have happened while...well, ONE of us was medically incapacitated, and instructing our able-bodied spouse DAILY to "PLEASE KEEP THE BOYS AND GIRLS SEPARATED."
  • Spouses do not always follow instructions.
  • To be fair, the mom did come into season two full months ahead of schedule.
  • And that is why you need to KEEP THE BOYS AND GIRLS SEPARATED all the time.
  • Oh, and once again? Three. Three puppies. As always. And yes, they are beautiful, and will make fabulous pets for three lucky people. And our average is now a solid three puppies a year, instead of 2.25, which was kind of awkward.
  • I slipped the puppy news into the middle of a weekend bulleted post on purpose, because I am still a little aggravated about it.
  • I have, apparently, worried needlessly about my daughter behaving like a materialistic, grabby so-and-so about Christmas, because her official request to Santa Claus is simple and short: "A dollhouse with a doll." Niiiiiice. I was expecting a lot more "and"s in her list.
  • I had worried not only because she has announced that she "wants" everything she sees lately, but because Alex and I were both, to use a term of my father's, "wantin' -hoppers" as children.
  • I really, REALLY ♥ my bloggy friends.
  • My sister just taught me the easy HTML code for making that ♥. Cool, innit?
  • After searching high and low for the perfect Christmas-tree topper (we wanted a star) for our new tree, Alex found the ideal one. At Lowe's. For $7.
  • If we had two more children, they would be named "TiVo" and "Biscuit," according to my husband...after two of the things he loves best.
  • The best part of Thanksgiving dinner was when my just-turned-four-year-old daughter highjacked the pre-meal blessing by yelling, "I WILL SAY THE BLESSING!" when Alex's mother asked him to say it, and then proceeded to come up with the sweetest, most beautiful little spontaneous prayer, including parts about being grateful for "all of us, and really my cousins," and making all the womenfolk cry.
  • The biggest surprise at Bella's Thanksgiving program at school (see photos below) was how very, VERY proper and ladylike and mannerly she was--and I'm only surprised because I'm comparing it with what would have been MY behavior at that age. Yikes, but she was good.
  • Smart-aleck comment preserved for all posterity on the videotape of Bella's Thanksgiving program at school (The title of which, I believe, was either "A Very Politically Incorrect Thanksgiving," or "Native Americans? Uh, They Just Decided to Move. Yeah, We Were Really Bummed."): When I leaned over and said, "And then we gave the Native Americans blankets covered in syphillus, and they all died. Yaaaaay, pilgrims!" Not the first time, nor likely the last, for me to be shushed by my husband in public.
  • At least I didn't bring up the fire-water.
  • My mom has LOTS of Christmas decorations that would look really great in MY house. If some of them come up missing, and she asks you, tell her you were with me when they disappeared.
  • Alex just let the nursing mama-poodle out for a break, and she totally walked right up to where my dinner was still sitting and stole chicken piccata directly off my plate, with me looking right AT her.
  • I actually said, out loud, to her, "Dude. I'm RIGHT HERE."
  • She didn't answer, didn't care, and helped herself to another caper. Poodles have no shame.
  • I was not disappointed at the end of the Stephen King book I wrote about earlier.
  • But...I didn't cry, and he totally could have made me, if he'd really wanted to.
  • I'm thinking about re-reading John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany YET AGAIN, just because I feel like crying.
  • I will probably actually read Running With Scissors next, because it's a memoir about crazy people.
  • I ♥ me some crazy people.
  • Speaking of which, I may have to stop talking to Mr. Fabulous and Kim for a little while if Arkansas plays Florida in a bowl game. So far, CP has not made overt pro-Gator comments on my blog, so her, I will continue to adore and converse with throughout the season. Until she blows it, anyway.
  • Alex and I are going to be spending our anniversary, in a couple of weeks, at a boxing match.
  • I am totally OK with this, because it's Jermain Taylor. Watch for us on HBO.
  • If you haven't so treated yourself before, please check out Jermain's "Stamp Out Smoking" campaign spot, from his pre-World Middleweight Champion days here. GO NOW. This goes double for Kelly, who knows what I'm thinking. Unless she's tanked on the crunk juice.
  • NEITHER ONE OF US realized/remembered that that particular date was, in fact, our anniversary until at least two weeks after the fight tickets were purchased. The date didn't even ring a bell.
  • We were going to spend the night at The Peabody afterward, but as I mentioned above, we have puppies now.
  • We already have the first Kool-Aid stain on our brand-new sisal rug in the living room.
  • Bella is NOT responsible.
  • Neither am I.
  • None of the poodles drink Kool-Aid--or, more accurately, Crystal Light Fruit Punch.
  • A poodle can eat a dinner-roll as big as her head in under 20 seconds.
  • I was NOT KIDDING about the ribbon. On my tree. It taunts me.

Friday, November 24, 2006

No Joy in Mudville

Since even Darren McFadden couldn't pull the Hogs out of a loss to LSU today (bye-bye again, "Boot"), we are in deep mourning. You think I'm kidding?

Also, my sinuses have me in misery. Stupid allergies. That's right, we still have plant allergens floating around, in Almost December. Stupid crazy Arkansas non-frosting weather. Actually, we had one frost, the morning after Kevin promised to send some of his Chicago cold down to us, but that was followed by several days of mid-70's inappropriate balminess that still continues. BEGONE, you misbegotten balminess!!

And if that weren't enough, my reaction to antihistamines means that I have the jimmy-leg. I absolutely HATE the jimmy-leg. It just herks and jerks and drives me crazy. Restless-Leg Syndrome, you are a useless, stupid malady. What is your problem, anyway, you jerk? HA! Get it? JERK. Hoo, boy, I'm high-larious.

Anyway, I am too antihistamine-doped to come up with anything substantive or entertaining today--although I have to record officially that Isabella has been on SUPER model behavior (by which I mean that she has been really good, as in "model behavior" qualified by a superlative, NOT that she has been purging food, throwing tantrums, and stomping dramatically up and down a catwalk or bringing home $10,000-an-hour paychecks) for the last few days, can you gimme hallelujah--so I'm just going to send you somewhere funny and go crawl into bed, where I will spend most of the night kicking my husband and blaming the jimmy-leg...probably even after the jimmy-leg wears off.

This post brought to you by me channeling the style of the inimitable JenB. Except that I'm wearing pants.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Must...sleep off...large quantities of cornbread dressing...

Happy Thanksg--zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....................

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Night of the Phantom Uterus

Okay, fellow hysterectomy-undergoers: What is the deal with the pain that feels EXACTLY like uterine cramps? It's very real pain, and nothing makes it better. And it's freaking me out not a little.

I know that people who lose limbs will have "phantom limb" pain for ages afterward, and I'm wondering, can you have "phantom organs?" I mean, it hurt for so many it out of the question that this is all in my head, psychosomatic? I'd rather think that than to think something is ACTUALLY still wrong in there.

Remember, moms, how even after you were pregnant, for a long while afterward, you would still "feel the baby moving" inside you? If we can fake ourselves out like that, after only 9 months, can't my body/brain be faking me out now, after 20 years of this cramping? Because it feels EXACTLY THE SAME as those nightmare menstrual cramps. Except that Motrin isn't helping, nor is any other pain medication.

So what is up, and what do I DO about it? Help? It's keeping me awake all night, and miserable all day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Everyone Should Have Some

Mainly me. I should have some. But are they mine? Oh-ho, no. Bella got a package today, all the way from Boston. It had a few select little treasures in it, but primary for both of us: Behold The Pajama-Pants of Awesomeness, courtesy of The Girl, who is Bella's newest "Best Friend":

Do you see?* Do you see why they are fabulous, aside from the fact that someone MADE THEM WITH HER VERY OWN HANDS, which I couldn't do to save my life? (Seriously--these things look like they were stitched up by a pro. Coolness.) Check out the fabric. It's cuddly-soft flannel, for one thing, but look at that print (click to enlarge).

Yup, black poodles. PRETTY black poodles! And now is the point at which every poodle person who reads this blog (and that's plenty, because OUR NUMBERS ARE LEGION) is screaming to themselves, "WHERE CAN I GET THAT FABRIC?!?!?" Maybe someone will tell us. Maybe someone will also tell me how to pry the poodle socks that were intended for ME away from this child, who insists that she "is SO big enough" to wear them.

*Also, do you see the obviously genetic monkey-toes? Yeah. Those are mine. You know you wish you had you some of those, so you, too, could hang upside-down from a clothesline. Admit it.

Ahhhhhh...long day, pressies in the mail, the threat of "phone calls to Santa" are holding steady as a disciplinary procedure that we plan to milk for all it's worth for the next month, and best of all, free NABLOPOMO post. Life is good.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Why I Read Stephen King

It's not really even the stories, although I am, admittedly, a sucker for most of his stories, purely for the STORY part. But what it is, really, for me, is the details. He is the only popular, contemporary male author capable of writing in a woman's voice without irritating the crap out of me. ( I have friends who would award this honor to John Updike, but on that we'll just have to disagree.) I like the way Larry McMurtry wrote about women, but his male characters are always soundly baffled by the fairer sex. I like to think that Stephen King gets a LOT of input from his wife, who he apparently loves to distraction.

Anyway, back to my point, which is, I love the man's books for the details. The dialogue, the conversations, the relationships...the "smucking" MADE-UP WORDS! I love it when a book has a passage, or even just a turn of phrase, that prompts me to read it over and over again. Not counting the Great Ones, the Classic Authors, there are few contemporary writers who have this power over me. John Irving, Larry McMurtry, Eudora Welty, the recently-mentioned-here Ellen Gilchrist, and a smattering of others have done it, so that I revisit their works again and again and again. And so has King.

What started me down the road that led to this post today is that I'm about halfway through King's latest novel, Lisey's Story. I'm not sure, at this point, that the story is going to be such great shakes--by which I mean, the PAYOFF. How satisfied you feel at the end by the conclusion of the STORY. It's not looking great from that angle at this point, but there are 250 pages or so left to surprise me. I'm always intrigued when Stephen King writes about writers, which he's done several times now, always with similar themes. The idea of the darkness that lies beneath a creative mind, how dank the well from which some artists draw their inspiration, will always interest and fascinate me.

This latest book, while about a writer on the face of the tale, is written from the point-of-view of
the writer's wife, and is ultimately about her--heck, the writer is already two years dead when the book starts, so it's a feat that he's such a huge character. I do adore the way King paints marital relationships in his novels. Even in his tales of great love (and this is one), he does not shy away from showing the warts, almost celebrating those times in human relationships when we just want to smack the crap out of someone we love, and somehow using those moments to magically magnify the depth of the emotion, the love.

Stripping away any supernatural aspect, this is a story about a woman who falls in love with a brilliant, gifted, and mentally ill man...and marries him, despite pretty much knowing what she's in for (although, as usual, with Stephen King driving the bus, you know she doesn't REALLY know everything). It would be accurate to say that I am identifying, in no small part, with Lisey. I'm "feeling her," if, in Kingspeak, you can dig it.

Let me be TOTALLY clear here, for those of you who have read or will read this book: MY husband does not, in any way, approach the level of "Big Crazy" that affects Lisey's husband. This guy has a genetically passed-on dangerous psychosis, with the added complication of supernatural boogers chasing after him. Alex has neither of those problems. But he is saddled
with the mental illness that is bipolar disorder, and like the writer character in the book, he is highly conscientious in his dealing with what is basically one of life's "unfair" aflictions and does what he can to shield his loved ones from the worst of it, sometimes to his own detriment.

And what I have in common with the fictional character that is Lisey is that, in her marriage (and with a sister as well), she has taken up a post in what I think of in my own life as "the watchtower." This is a position that, if you've never been there, can't possibly be explained to you. Make no mistake: Between the two of us, Alex's lot is without a doubt the more difficult. But I can't really tell you about that, because I'm not him. What I can tell you a tiny bit about about is the "lifeguard" role, and what it means to me--and keep in mind that Alex is WONDERFUL about managing his illness. I can only imagine what it is to man the watchtower for a loved one who lacks insight into his or her own illness. But even for me, here's just a taste:

It means being ever-watchful. Always. The second you're not paying attention, that's the very second you're going to overlook a crucial clue to something that's coming right at you. You are attentive to your loved one's every mood, every action, every word, and every bit of body language. You become protective about what kind of information reaches him, and how it's conveyed. You form a buffer-zone between him and the rest of the world, when needed, and
you form his lifeline TO the rest of the world when that is called for. And you try your best to know the difference. You walk a treacherous tightrope between beating yourself up for "jumping the gun" and interpreting something as a danger sign that really isn't, and worse, second-guessing yourself for having MISSED something that maybe, just maybe, could have made a difference. Or maybe you saw it, and just didn't act on it. Or most likely, you, just like him, WANT so desperately for things to be "normal" that you simply will it to be "nothing." And I'm here to tell you, that never works.

So what was it that sparked all this navel-gazing? Just a simple, short passage in a pop novel. One that would probably passed right over by most people. This one, describing Lisey's part in what turns out to be her husband's descent into a mentally unstable state:

"There's a period of time--two weeks, maybe--when she goes
on trying to believe that things are getting better. Later she'll ask
herself how she could be so stupid, so willfully blind, how she could
mistake his frantic struggle to hold onto the world (and her!) for any
kind of improvement, but of course when straws are all you have, you
grasp them."

Can you dig it? "When straws are all you have, you grasp them." Can SK get a hallelujah? You
bet he can get one from me.

NOTE: The two consecutive Stephen King-related posts are a coincidence. I think. (cue eerie zither music)

P.S. Scroll down to the bottom of the previous post for the latest update.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

One Reason I Grudgingly Admit to Having Married the Right Man

Because he totally got it, and laughed, when I said, to a glaring-at-me Bella,
"Quit looking at me like that, Firestarter."

When you get right down to it, all we really want in a life-partner is a good audience.

UPDATE: I was just making some MOO cards, and looking back, realized that "the glare" has been being cultivated for quite some time:
UPDATE DOS: Alex found another one, stored on his cell phone. Ah, fond memories of toddlerhood...

Saturday, November 18, 2006


So. Alex and I made the decision to forego gifts to each other this Christmas (for which we had saved), in order to be able to actually decorate the house FOR Christmas, for Bella. It's something we've never really gotten serious about since we got married, because, for one thing, we almost always "did Christmas" at our mothers' homes, and frankly, they are REALLY good at it, both of them. And then Bella was born. Well, that first year...I'll just say it was a ROUGH year. She was born in October, we had a bunch of our own stuff going on, and we didn't even manage to get a tree up in our own house. In the following three years, we did decorate outside, with lights up and down the driveway and all over the house, and a giant star over the barn (cute, right?), and did put up a tree. On at least one of those Christmases, the tree was unadorned except for lights, and last year, we once again did not put one up at all, because of our impending move. But my mother's decorations and tree more than made up for our shortcomings:
Mom's House At Night

Dining Room


But. BUT--this year, darn it, our first Christmas in our first "grownup" house, with a daughter who is now FOUR years old and is darn well starting to build forever memories, we just can't get away with decorating like we did last year, including the single dominating piece of decor in our tiny kitchen/dining nook, the poodle stand-dryer:
I mean, even with the red roses and some greenery, it just didn't scream, "NOEL." Know what I mean? So now that we have room, blessed space, to actually LIVE and EAT and SLEEP and COOK and BATHE, all in different rooms, we are determined to do this up as right as we can.

So, back to the master-plan. That new Sony 10-mp digital camera we were buying for each other as our single shared gift? Buh-bye (but we will meet again, my love). This year, we're spending that camera money on a tree (two, actually, because we got a smaller one for the living room window), and the decorations with which to cover it, and if there's anything left, maybe some lights for outside and around. Our existing ornaments, as pitiful as most of them were, should be sufficient for the window-tree, but we had nothing, especially nothing that wouldn't clash horribly, color-wise, with our hearth-room, which is where the tree HAS TO BE, by Decree of Isabella, because that's where the fireplace is, and we don't want Santa getting lost or disoriented, you know.

My first minor nervous breakdown came when we bought the 7.5', pre-lit tree. It was just a LOT of money, to me. The second was tonight, when we spent slightly MORE than what the tree cost, on ornaments for the tree, specifically chosen, for the first time in my life, to compliment the room in which they'll be. But OH, they are beautiful. SO beautiful. Want a peek? Just a tease? They're unusual, but try to picture them in the proper setting: Our house, nestled in the trees, wildlife all around, in a cozy hearthroom full of deep, rich earthy tones and a crackling fireplace:I'm seriously hoping I can pull it off. That doesn't QUITE eat up our camera money, but it's darn close. I figure we can squeeze a tree-topper out of it, and a few yards of rich, honey/copper/cinnamon fabric of some kind in which to swathe the base of the tree, in lieu of a traditional skirt (we have a beautiful handmade tree skirt that was a gift from my grandmother that will go on the tree in the front room). It needs to be pretty, because there won't be as many gifts with which to cover it this year! Fortunately, we already have a nice Nativity set.

Yes, at our house, Christmas 2006 is going to be pretty much all about Bella. We're trying to keep the gift-related materialism to a minimum, and she's going to have to make some tough decisions about gifts, and which ones she REALLY wants, and we're trying to figure out the best way to involve her in some charitable giving, too. We're finally at the age where we realize that these things ARE "for the children," and that's the way we're approaching this year. We plan to purchase gifts for the children in the family (this is where having a smallish family comes in handy, because we're basically talking five kids), and for our own mothers and grandmother.

For the rest, we're scraping together what we would normally spend on Gifts You Don't Need from Stores You Don't Like Anyway, and sending it to the Arkansas-based Heifer Project. Heck, the way we figure, we're already at the point that even if we stop now, someone in South America's getting a water buffalo! So if you get a card from us explaining that you contributed to the self-sufficiency of some poor third-world family, and eventually their entire community, with a gift of llamas or geese or trees or even a water buffalo...well, just know that it means we think the world of you, and trust that you'd be totally behind us in this effort. Last year we split our giving between the Union Rescue Mission and Heifer Project, but I think this year, it's going to be Heifer all the way, because we have learned that they don't just help people in faraway places, but also perform their outreach within our own state and many others in the U.S. I'm proud to have even any small association with this amazing organization, and if you're looking for a cause, may I please encourage you to thoroughly check out Heifer Project. You're not just "giving a man a fish," or even stopping at "teaching him to fish," but through Heifer gifts, you're helping THAT man (or woman) to teach yet ANOTHER person to fish, and that "giving cycle" goes on and on and on, ever growing, ever helping. Again: Heifer Project.

And after that plea for altruism, is it wrong of me to admit that Alex and I are both pining for (but have resisted purchasing) a pair of these?Yeah. Couple of the big ones, which would be a RIDICULOUS $180-worth of crazy vine-woven reindeer. I mean, honestly. We won't do it. WE WON'T. But aren't they yummy? And perfectly matching my warm terra-cotta-ey hearthroom? le siiiiiiigh. But after seeing how much this store's Halloween stuff is marked down already, my plan is to lie in wait until about January 1st, and see if these babies are astonishingly less expensive at that time. Hey, that's the way my grandmother would play it, and that lady's NO FOOL.

But yes, Isabella, we WILL have a beautiful Christmas tree this year, and those sparkling snowflake decals you like so much all over the giant windows, and as many lights as we can afford festooning the outside of the house. I promise you won't have to visit your grandmothers' homes to see what real decorations look like this year. And no dog drier anywhere to be seen!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stop The Ride, I Wanna Get OFF

I can remember screaming that once, long ago. I was just a kid, and had been talked into getting on "The Spider" at a county fair up in north-central rural Arkansas, by some long-forgotten friend. Some of you may know this ride as "The Octopus," or another name. What it is, is a kind of a jacked-up version of the Tilt-A-Whirl, with long "arms," and the cars set on an angle. The arms move up and down, individually, from the base of the machine, spinning around the base simultaneously. While this is going on, each individual CAR is also free to spin at will, which it does, at a crazy pace. Good gosh, I was sick after just a few moments. I can vividly recall screaming at the ride operator to PLEASE stop the machine--and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable request to my 10-year-old brain. They could stop the ride, let me off, and resume the thing for all those fortunate, iron-gutted riders who wished to continue. But the thing was, I needed OFF, and I needed off NOW, before I slung vomit over all and sundry and ruined everybody's day. I even remember timing my shrieked pleas for mercy so that I was doing the bulk of my screaming precisely as my car swooped down over the ride operator's head.

But that carny was either hard of hearing, uncaring, or just plain MEAN, because he didn't stop the ride, and I had to, somehow, find within myself the literal intestinal fortitude to tough it out until the ride was over. I still don't completely understand how, but I did it. And I never, ever, EVER got on an Octopus/Spider/Hellmachine ever again. Although, go figure, I grew up LOVING "The Zipper." Hardly matters, because ever since my big surgery in the summer of 2000, I can't even ride the stupid Tilt-A-Whirl any more without getting woozy, and EVERYONE knows that the Tilt-A-Whirl is a BABY ride. Anyway.

My life is feeling a little like that Octopus-ride at the moment. And while I don't really want to get off and abandon the ride, I'd like to just slow it down a bit, please. Just for a while, so I can catch my breath, and maybe hand off my cotton candy to someone on the ground so it doesn't wind up spiderwebbed all over me (this is another reference to an ACTUAL childhood carnival experience, when my little sister and myself brilliantly carried cotton-candy onto a Tilt-A-Whirl, with hilariously embarrassing results) in the meantime.

Seriously: I'm not worried about anything superficial, like my metaphorical hair getting messed up--I just don't want to explode metaphorical stomach contents all over the whole metaphorical world. Wait--the world is real, isn't it? But you get my meaning. It's just too much, too fast, too up-and-down, too back-and-forth, and with ENTIRELY too much spinning, one axis mounted upon another, mounted upon yet another...and it seems like some cosmic, metaphorical carny is adding to the base, for yet MORE spinning potential, each and every day, just to see how much I can take. It's like a NASA stress-test, and I'm the rocket. What, I'm mixing metaphors now? Sue me.

I can't remember who was with me on the day of that fateful Spider ride, way back when. It can't have been my sister--she'd have been too short to get on. But whoever it was, whatever young peer, I do remember them more or less talking me through that nightmare ride that seemed it would never end. The way it worked was through distraction, pure and simple. Whoever that wise young friend was (MAN, I wish I could remember, and could thank them), he/she kept my attention focused on his/her voice, and gave me a metaphorical life-preserver to cling to until the vertiginous nightmare was over.

I say all that in the "now" to say this for posterity: Isabella is my life-preserver. It seems that I can't possibly be tossed about enough that a rousing rendition, complete with hiney-shucking choreography, of "Grey Squirrel, Grey Squirrel, shake your bushy tail..." can't bring things zooming right back into focus, and still the ground beneath my feet. Her sweet smile, her hugs and kisses, her mere existence is like BEDROCK. I want her to know, when she's looking back in years hence on these pages, why I did this, wrote these things down. I want her to know that she did this for me, even before she was born. She makes it matter, she makes it right, and she makes me stay on the ride and weather the dizziness.

I guess she made me a "mommyblogger." Among other things, all of which are vast improvements over anything I was before she came along.

Today's post was brought to you by the word "metaphorical."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Flu Shot Pictorial

On the way, and pushin' those elevator buttons. She has accompanied US to the doctor so many times, she pretty much knows the drill.

All happy: "I'm getting a flu shot!" She loves coming here--I think it's the suckers.

The swabbing. We're still alright here, but she's beginning to remember what's actually coming.

Now she's showing definite concern, but thankfully not real fear.

"1-2-3-stick." It happens. Daddy stepped in to hold her arm, just in case, but she never flinched.

Despite appearances, she did not actually cry or shed a single tear. It was just this pitiful face, accompanied by several, "OW OW OW OW OWs!"

And very quickly, the prospect of the glorious Tootsie-Pop begins to wash away all the shot-related badness.

And just like that, we're ALL GOOD! Yaaay! We bragged and bragged on her bravery, and then she got to watch while Daddy got yet ANOTHER gram of Rocephin injected into his hip. She got a HYOOOOGE kick out of this. The best part was that, when the nurse swabbed Alex's hip, she fanned the spot with her hand, the quicker to dry the alcohol so she could give the shot. Bella interpreted this hand-fanning near Alex's buttock region differently, however, and gloriously announced to all and sundry outside the office that "Nurse Lisa gave Daddy a shot in his butt, and she waved her hand like THIS because HIS BUTT WAS REEEEEALLLLLLY STINKY!" I thought I would laugh myself SICK. We went to Hastings and she got two books for her bravado, and chicken pizza for dinner.

Meanwhile, MY flu-shot injection site STILL hurts. Apparently Bella is tougher than me, because she says her arm is fine now. Hmmmph. And on Alex's part, he is so full of antibiotics that within a couple of days, he should have no bacteria of any kind, beneficial or not, left in his entire body. Tonight he took all his bipolar meds, along with his asthma/breathing meds, AND his Levaquin, and now reports feeling "disembodied." Great. Just what I need right now--husband having pneumonia AND out-of-body experiences. Which is just as well, because he brought home, into MY house, a frickin' TOM CRUISE movie, so if I do his body violence, maybe he won't be in there to feel it.

P.S. Tom Cruise sucks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hump Day

Not just Wednesday, but we're also midway through NABLOPOMO! You know, I had a spell of a few days, actually just a couple, when the weight of daily posting was wearing on me. But now I'm finding that the commitment to getting something in every day is, at least, good for ME. It's cathartic and therapeutic and all those good psychological catch-phrases. Now, whether it's good for whoever's reading, that's debatable. But for me, for now, it's a good thing.

It's about 11:00 PM, and I'm listening to my husband cough up at least a portion of a lung in the shower. We spent several hours at the medical clinic today, going back and forth between the doctor's office and the lab. After listening to Alex's breathing, Doc sent him immediately for a chest X-Ray, and that showed some definite crud, especially in the bottom of his right lung. In other words, pneumonia. AGAIN. The frequency of him getting pneumonia is starting to be unsettling. The doc really wanted to give him a steroid dosepack to reduce the inflammation in his lungs, but he had to refuse, since steroids cause mania (Jane Pauley: cautionary tale). So he got ANOTHER big ol' shot of Rocephin, and a LevaPak for more antibioticky goodness...this should probably handle the infection, but as for any relief in the meantime, well, he can't have that, because of the crazy it would cause. It's so nice to have these choices, isn't it?

Also, we both got flu shots. Ordinarily, Doc said, he wouldn't give someone as sick as Alex a flu shot, but under the circumstances, it's late in the season, and if he gets the flu now, he's likely to just plain kick off. I don't usually get a flu shot, but this year I got one because of my proximity to my husband who, if I were to bring influenza home, would probably drop dead the next day or something. So I'm in the "living with/caring for a person with compromised immunity" category. Which usually means the very old or the very young. If you could see him, this huge, strapping husband of mine, you wouldn't even believe he could get sick. But BOY, can he.

And now the big trauma for tomorrow is that they told us to bring Bella in for a flu shot, as well...both because she lives with Alex, and because she goes to school with a bunch of other people's children. And we all know the universal rule that (present reading company excluded, of course) other people's children are NASTY, germy, disease-carrying critters, from whom we must protect our own precious, clean, practically sterile offspring, don't we?

I didn't feel it was right to just take her there and AMBUSH her with a shot, so I told her about it tonight, in my best light, twinkling, Snow White Singing With The Bluebirds voice. That didn't work. At first she thought they were going to "cut her open" (this concern has been with her since my surgery), and then when we got that quashed, she still cried and cried about not wanting to go. I'm just hoping it's over quickly and I'm not the traitor mom who took her to be tortured. I remember that my own mother NEVER lied to me about medical procedures, and that when one nurse told me that the shot she was about to administer would feel "just like a little mosquito bite," I whipped my little head around to my mother to assess the veracity of this unlikely statement, and she delivered with an honest, "Yes, it will hurt a little, but only for a minute."

I also have a VIVID memory, which my mother confirms, of being held down onto a table by large, muscular male orderlies during one vaccine session, so ferociously did I fight against it. Let's not hope my daughter takes after me in THAT respect.

I hope I can strike that same balance between soothing her fears and telling her the truth that my own mother did. I knew that if Mom said something, I could take it to the bank, and truly, she never gave me reason to doubt her my whole life, except for that time when I was eleven and she sat behind me and helped my dad cheat against me while playing "Mastermind." I'll never let her live that one down. Dad, on the other hand, was the one who inadvertantly set Mom up as the arbiter of truth within our household. He'd tell us some ridiculous thing, and we'd run to her, crying, "MOOO-oooooom! Dad said..." and got the straight story. I find myself in that same position with Bella and her father now. Irony.

SO, it's off to get my poor baby stuck for the first time since she's been old enough to really anticipate and dread it. Wish me luck. Between the two of us, I expect there to be much boo-hoo-ing, consoling, and probably the purchase of another Barbie dancing princess.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


It's been a rough couple of days around here. I won't, at present, write another stultifying chapter of the horse-choking tome, "Living With Bipolar Disorder," but suffice it to say that Alex could use your prayers and kind thoughts. We may or may not be drifting into that wonderland known clinically as "mixed states," which pretty much means that you're depressed AND hypomanic/manic at the SAME TIME. Sound like fun? No? Well, you're right, it isn't. And on top of that, his bronchitis that became pneumonia is back, in bronchitis form for now. So he ain't doin' so great.

My anxiety level goes up when he's not doing well, and we just try hard to protect Bella from all of it. She's an awfully sunshiney kid, so I hope that means we're succeeding, at least to some extent. For Pete's sake, it thunderstormed tonight, which meant we had to dose the DOG with Klonopin. Thankfully we only have the one with severe storm phobia. We're a psychiatrically well-versed household.

In big news today, besides visiting the doctor, we grocery shopped and picked out a Christmas tree. Isabella is BESIDE herself about Christmas already, asking daily, "IS IT CHRISTMAS?" She's also reached the age where she declares that she "wants" every single toy she sees on T.V. or in a magazine or catalog. When she pointed out the miniature, operable Barbie's Escalade the other day, I got to pull out one of my mother's old chestnuts, and I'm happy to report that it works JUST as well on her as it did on my sister and I back in the good ol' days. She showed me the picture in the catalog, and said, "MOMMY! I want THIS!" I put on my best Voice That Sounds The Way I Remember My Mother's Sounding, and said, "You do? Well. You know, you just MIGHT be able to get that for Christmas. But I can tell you for sure, that if you did, it would be your only gift, because it would be such an expensive gift. Is that what you'd like?" I let her mull that over for a moment, and then added, "Would you like to have this electric car, and NOTHING ELSE, or do you think you'd rather have several smaller gifts?"

"I want SEVERAL." That's my girl. (Later, when we were alone and I admitted that I'd played a hand from my mother's deck, Alex asked me, "You'd have totally gone for the Escalade, though, wouldn't you?" To which I had to answer, "Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And then I'd have been sitting there in my electric car wishing I had more presents to open.") I was the "one big gift" kid, whereas my sister was the "lots of packages" kid. It was a good working system. Our gifts were always equal in value, but we often had the choice of how we wanted that gift allowance distributed. The same rule went for shopping for clothes, which meant I usually wound up with one or two top-dollar outfits, while my sister milked that clothing allowance for maximum clothing-changes. I've learned since then.

We went with an artificial, pre-lit tree--a Frasier Fir--for our new home, too. Which is odd, since Alex and I have both always been firmly in the "real tree" camp on this issue. But when it came right down to it, "PRE-LIT" won out over just about every other the fact that we like to have a tree up from just before Thanksgiving to at least January 6th, and we know the fake one will last. It's really pretty, and has something like 1300 lights on it. That WE don't have to string.

All I really have left to report on from today is our fascinating grocery-shopping trip. I'm still playing that coupon game hard, and holding steady at an average of just over 50% savings. Today's receipt reflected a 40% savings, BUT, that was including a new $20 hardback book, a $10 Southern Living Recipe Collection, and at least $20-worth of non-sale items that I just wanted, like Sweet Acidophilus milk (it just SOUNDS yummy, no?) and Activia yogurt, to try to put some good flora back into my gut. Anyway, I still got a rush when I saw, on my receipt, "You saved $97 today." Yup. Nearly a hundred bucks' worth of free food always lightens my mood.

But the funniest thing that happened at the grocery store was when we checked out, and the sweet lady running the register first let Bella stand in the cart and hand her the groceries, and then lifted her down and let her scan everything, including the coupons. We were tired and wanting to get home, but the way it delighted her made us hold our tongues and be patient. And seriously? After just a few items, she knew exactly how to look for the bar codes and run them across the sensor, listening for the beep, and then sending the items down the conveyor belt to the bagger. It was cute, and I can prove it, via Alex's cell-phone camera:

Now I know where to send her as soon as she's old enough to pull down a paycheck. And that fruit punch is Daddy's.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Thank You, Veterans

In my mind, I'm awash in a sea of little paper poppies, standing with hand over heart, at a parade in your honor.

I had an elaborate Veterans Day post, inspired by this "Armistice Day" photo, but I lost it in trying to blog directly from flickr. Anyone else having that problem?

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Remember those papers you used to have to write in high school and college, speculating about what you'd be doing in 10, 20, 30 years from that time? Yeah?

Did anyone write, "Clipping grocery coupons while watching the World Juggling Federation Championships on ESPN2?" No? Yeah, I thought not. (Seriously, click the link.)

Oh, and just a note: If you watch this with a man, he will, after 10 minutes, be an expert on critiquing the competitors, and will be using the juggling insider terminology.

Bonus material for today: Every once in a while, Alex gets off a good joke. Last night, when discussing the fact that now there is a woman 3rd in line for the presidency, he got to musing, and said, "Well, pheasant season is in full swing in Texas right now...she might just be one Bush-Cheney hunting trip away from the presidency."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Justify My Love

This is what you see at the entrance to our driveway: A mailbox with a wild, angry pig on it. I wasn't consulted. And behind it, the Hog-mobile, a hay-hauling, horse-towing, testament to Razorback red--this is a common color for vehicles around here, and on any given game day, you can expect this one to be festooned with any number of hog-related magnets and other adornments. Anyway, this is who we are--a bunch of wild hogs. It fits.

Today, the stage is set for the upcoming Arkansas-Tennessee game, including the ESPN "Game Day" show being aired live from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Excitement could NOT be higher on campus, and there are additional factors at play, including sophomore Darren McFadden's Heisman hopes (he's got time next year, I say) and the fact that Georgia beat Auburn today, which, if Arkansas wins, means the Hogs get bumped way on up in the polls. We're not kidding ourselves or taking anything for granted, because the Vols are going to be TOUGH to beat.

Who cares? EVERYBODY.

It's insane. And speaking of insane, allow me to just let you in on a few things that have to happen in our house on game days: First of all, my husband made me change my pants, and I hadn't even soiled myself or anything. Even though I was already wearing U of A pajama pants, I wasn't wearing the RIGHT U of A pajama pants. The cotton ones that are really his, with the classic running-hog logo and the words "Whoo, Pig Sooiee!" all over them. Everyone must be wearing red. Alex has his ratty old Arkansas ballcap on, a razorback-red button-down, my dad's Razorback-red high-dollar leather Hilfiger walking shoes, which were passed on to him after Dad died by my mom--Dad would have wanted it that way, and no one else had feet that big, anyway. Everyone has to be present in the living room, in front of the big-screen. The only thing that irritates me is the fact that the game-day sports-page of our state's daily newspaper has to be balanced, just so, on the right arm of MY chair, where he can frequently touch it, like some kind of Hog talisman, from the comfort of HIS chair. He even has a special fruit punch he has to drink during the game. I've tried to explain to him numerous times that these actions are having no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the games, but he's a sportsfan. He doesn't hear with his ears, he hears with his heart. And today, his heart is in Fayetteville...and so I go along for the ride, and Bella utters the occasional heartfelt, "WhoooooOOOOOOOOOOO PIG! SOOOOOIEEE!" or, "Hold 'em Hawgs, Hold 'em!"

I've lived in Fayetteville twice: Once as a child, while my dad finished the last few hours of college he missed when he left to serve in the Army, and then again as a way-too-young college student. It's an amazing place. If ever anyone from somewhere else wonders why anyone would want to live in Arkansas, they have only to visit Fayetteville. I would try to describe it to you myself, but I don't have to, since the amazing and wonderful author, Ellen Gilchrist, has done it for me already. If ever you click on a link and read anything, and if there is any poetry in your heart, please go and read this short article from the Smithsonian magazine. Do it for me. And if you've missed out on the wonder that is Gilchrist, do yourself a favor, start with "In the Land of Dreamy Dreams," a collection of short stories, and go from there. There is no fiction like American fiction, and no unique and peculiar and magical subset of that fiction like SOUTHERN fiction. Here's an excerpt from Ellen Gilchrist's first novel, in which the main character attempts to explain why Fayetteville, Arkansas, has captured her heart:

(photo credit to flickr user thapgood, Nov. 7, 2006
Click image to view original size)

Fayetteville, Arkansas. Fateville, as the poets call it. Home of the Razorbacks. During certain seasons of the year the whole town seems to be festooned with demonic red hogs charging across bumper stickers, billboards, T-shirts, tie-clasps, bank envelopes, quilts, spiral notebooks, sweaters. Hogs. Hog country. Not a likely place for poets to gather, but more of them keep coming every year. Most of them never bother to leave. Even the ones that leave come back all the time to visit.

Fateville. Home of the Hogs. Also, poets, potters, painters, musicians, woodcarvers, college professors, unwashed doctors, makers of musical instruments....

Amanda had fallen in love with the world where the postman makes stained glass windows, the Orkin man makes dueling swords, the bartender writes murder mysteries, the waitress at the Smokehouse reads Nietzsche on her lunch break.

"Where in the name of God are you going?" everyone in New Orleans kept asking Amanda.

"To Fayetteville, Arkansas," she replied. "My Paris and my Rome."

Go Hogs.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Yes, we're aware that there are more important issues in the world. But this household has been unusually wrapped up in the drama of the SpongeBob SquarePants "Best Day Ever" 24-hour marathon, in which the top 100 viewer-selected episodes were counted down, followed by a new regular episode and then the Network premiere of "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie." Which is awful, but I digress.

Come on, I know we can't be the only adults to get sucked into the world of Bikini Bottom, and the whole bizarro concept that is SBSP. The suspension of disbelief that this show asks for is ENORMOUS, even for a cartoon show. It's set on the ocean floor. OK, you say. And yet, characters still take baths and drink water and go swimming at "Goo Lagoon." WHERE THERE IS A LIFEGUARD. In case a FISH DROWNS. SB's parents are normalish "natural" sponges, whereas SB himself is bright yellow, and square, as if they adopted a brand-new "Chore-Boy" or "O-Cello" sponge, and didn't tell him. He frequently blows soap-bubbles for fun. Underwater. There has been more than one episode featuring campfires. Underwater. Everyone uses electrical appliances and enjoys cooked food. Underwater. Mr. Krabs, SB's boss, is a widowed (we think) crab, with a daughter, Pearl. Who is a WHALE. No explanation.

And then there's the whole thing with Sandy Cheeks, the squirrel, who lives in an underwater "treedome" which is financed by a consortium of Texan chimpanzees who inexplicably have British accents, for the purpose of some vague "research and development" project. There's the fact that, in the episode in which SB meets Sandy, he is dried up to the point of near-death after only a few moments' deprivation of water inside Sandy's airy treedome. And yet, in the episode that was voted #1 in today's countdown, "Karate Island," he spends HOURS on dry land, with no visible effects. My point is, the show asks for ALL this, and much MORE, give it. Sure, OK, fire underwater, crabs siring whale babies, whatever. It's just that entertaining.

And about that countdown: WHAT THE?!?!? I cry foul on the whole thing. I knew, when I tuned in for a little while around #50, and one of my top-ten faves, "Pressure," (this is the one that has Sandy squaring off on behalf of all "land critters" against the 4 main "sea critters" in a battle of superiority that has the seafolk venturing up onto dry land to settle a bet) was counting down in the #47 slot, that something had gone terribly, terribly wrong with the voting process.

Most of my favorites fell within the top 50, with several in the top 20 (I notice that many of my favorite episodes feature Mrs. Puff, and fear that I identify just a little too well with her), but the top two were TRAVESTIES. I'm demanding a recount--they must have used Diebold machines. I mean, the whole medieval episode is only unique in its length (30 minutes as opposed to the usual 15--which in turn translate to 11 when you exclude commercial time), and gets boring pretty early in. And the #1 choice, "Karate Island?" WE HATE THAT ONE. So yeah, I'm all in a twist over Sponge. Bob. This is what my life has become.

Respect Mrs. Puff, people! She brings it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Recognize.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

There Are Not Enough Drugs in the World

Not enough to quell the turbulence in my gut, apparently. Seriously, I've spent the entire day taking Lomotil AND Donnatal--PILES of it, not eating, and yet still I'm in pain and constantly in the bathroom. AND still fighting a stupid fever that has me wrapped in a heavy fleece blanket, underneath three MORE covers, freezing to death, only to have the fever periodically break when the analgesics finally kick in, so that I wake up burning up and bathed in sweat. Whee. And yet...AND YET, I drag myself, sick and wounded, to the computer here in the eleventh hour of the eighth day of NABLOPOMO, just to keep my commitment to this insane (no offense, M. K.) project.

Anyway, before you ask, YES, I've seen a gastroenterologist, though it might be time to see him again, and YES, I've had a colonoscopy. And YES, I've followed the Diet That Eliminates All Foods That Can Exacerbate I.B.S., Namely Any Foods That Taste Good, all to no avail. So I live my life on Atropine and Belladonna-based drugs, simultaneously cursing them for their non-effectiveness and praising God for them because HOW BAD WOULD IT BE WITHOUT THEM?

Ugh. And I try, really TRY, not to talk politics on this blog, but on a day like Just, wow. A woman, third in line for the presidency? WOW. I did not check any news sources at all today, not even the TV, until late this evening, and my first reaction was, "WHOA--Rummy's really GONE?" Next was "WHOA--the SENATE turned over, too?"

What a ride. Here's hoping that we're not just exchanging one tidal-wave of single-party politics for another one.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

After All The Nagging I Did To Get Everyone To Vote...

I didn't. I was knocked out with antihistamines, sweating out a fever, when I should have been at the polls. Fortunately, everyone I would have voted for seems to be winning by a comfortable margin. Now, if I still lived in Pulaski County, I could have had Alex drop me by to vote, conveniently, after seeing the doctor today. But now we live in a different county, and there was no way either of us could summon up the strength to drive to yet another town to stand in line at the polls before going home to collapse.

I got a nifty new antihistamine that is working wonders (finally) for my heinous drainage (Is that a great name for a band/blog, or what?), some new drugs for my highly-irritable bowel, and Alex got a great big shot of Rocephin, because he has pneumonia. AGAIN. And yes, he's had that lifetime pneumonia vaccine. We won't be endorsing the manufacturer of that little wonder.

SO: The moral of this little cautionary tale? Participate in your area's EARLY VOTING option. Because you never know what will happen on election day. You could be unconscious, unable to get to the polls to cancel out your husband's single "wrong" vote. Seriously, if a certain race in our county is decided by one vote, someone in this household is in BIG trouble.

NOW: To discover the moral of the cautionary tale about why you should ALWAYS COUNT YOUR PILLS when you get a prescription filled, skip on over to my Arkansas Times blog. Consider it a public service announcement. Really, it's important.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Rudest of Awakenings

On many a morning, Isabella wakes a good bit earlier than we do, or than we wish to. On those days, she climbs into bed with me for a sweet bit of morning snuggling before we all have to get up and prepare for the day. I'm a side-sleeper, so lots of times, what this means is that I'm lying on my left side, toward the center of the bed, and Littlun' slips in and snuggles up behind me, tossing an arm across my neck and lying her precious little head right atop of mine, so that we're ear-to-ear.

So it was, yesterday morning, and all was right in the world. Until I heard it. Even out of the deep recesses of my slumber, I heard it: that unmistakeable "hurka-gurka" throat noise of someone who's just about to toss cookies. It registered immediately, mainly because it was happening RIGHT IN MY EAR. Like I say, the sound registered, but what followed, followed too quickly for me to take evasive action. I think you see where I'm going with this.

That's right. I was awakened early on a fine Sunday morning by my 4-year-old daughter puking di-RECT-ly onto my face. And into my right ear. And my right eye. And my nose. And my mouth. And my hair.

I was bolt upright, temporarily blinded, simultaneously barking a command at still-sleeping Alex ("Get towels! NOW!), and likely frightening a few years off his life, and trying to soothe Bella, who was still puking, and had no idea what was going on ("It's OK, Honey. You're just throwing up. It happens to everybody.") She was most upset that it had gotten on her princess nightgown, because "Grandmommy gave me this nightgown and now it is all ruuuuuuined!" By this time, Alex had gotten back with towels so that I could, at least, wipe my face and subsequently open my eyes. The substance that was seemingly everywhere was totally liquid, and resembled red Kool-Aid. It was even sweet, and don't ask me how I know that--it's too horrifying. I rushed Bella and myself off to the bathroom for a shower, while Alex stripped the bed and started the laundry going.

Bella has an occasional habit, when she rises before the rest of the household, of slipping stealthily into the kitchen and raiding it for things she knows we wouldn't let her have at that hour, were she to ask permission. After much questioning, and the discovery of some forensic evidence, it was finally revealed that she had gorged that morning on frozen fruit-juice bars before getting into bed with us. Red ones, judging from what was all over me.

Fresh out of the shower, we got her into some clean underwear, warm socks, and one of her daddy's t-shirts, and settled her on the loveseat on top of a comforter for cartoons and rest. And then into yet another of Daddy's t-shirts, and another, when she threw up a couple more times. She was mopey that day, and fell asleep a couple of times, but never ran a fever. By today, although I kept her home (out of laziness more than anything else, just because I did NOT want to get that call from the preschool, informing me that I needed to come right away and fetch my puking, crying daughter, and take her home. Better safe than sorry seemed to be the best call on that one.) BUT, Alex and I sure felt like crap this morning. So it must have been some kind of 24-hour bug that started with the Little One.

The remarkable thing about this story is that this was a first. Isabella, having reached the age of four years old, had never really vomited before in her life. I thought she did once, back when she was still nursing (which she did until she was two and a half), but that turned out to be a reflux-type of high-powered spitting-up thing. Full-fledged vomiting? Never. So she was totally freaked out. She kept asking me why she was throwing up, and I tried to explain, "Well, sometimes we just have bad stuff in our tummies that makes us sick, and our body has to get it out, so it makes us throw up to get our tummies empty." She considered this only briefly, and then, acceptingly, said, "So now I have to go to the doctor, and they will open up my tummy and take the bad stuff out, like they did with your tummy, and then I will have a 'cut' too."

Poor dear, she thought that a little puking indicated a need for surgery. And she was just rolling with the punches about it. (God, I love that kid. Keep us together as long as possible, OK?)

So now we have a new catch-phrase around our house, although it will never be as effective as it was yesterday. At the first sign of any complaining, whinging, or carping, I now get to say, "WELL. Who puked on YOUR face this morning?"

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I Guess "Gary Pawn" Would Have Been Too Obvious

I'm one of those people who still watches "Law and Order," The Mothership. And yes, usually SVU and sometimes CI, too. Can't help it. What normally happens is that I TiVo them, and keep them in reserve for occasions when I can't sleep...which is pretty much every night since the hysterectomy.

And so it was that I found myself watching Friday's episode of "Law and Order" on Saturday night. They insist on keeping that whole "ripped from the headlines" theme going, and so this was the episode that featured Chevy Chase playing, well...Mel Gibson. Right down to the use of the term "sugart*ts." Of course, they added a murder, so it wasn't exactly the same. And, you know, they try to be realistic and current. But there came a moment at which I lost my mind a little (I'm doing that a lot at the television lately. Perhaps I should read more.), and that moment was this:There's the Mel-Gibson-ish character, doing his requisite on-air "apology," and telling the world that "some of my best friends are Jews." On the "BARRY BISHOP" show. At this point, my attention totally leaves the plotline of the show, as I try to imagine the writer's meeting at which they came up with this. "Let's see...we could call him 'Gary Pawn.' No, wait...'Derry Rook'? We could make the character a woman, and call her 'Mary Queen,' but then the whole suspender angle gets lost, and people might not realize who we're trying to represent, here.

And check out the logo in the photo above. Then look at this one, which is from the actual MYSTERY show being copied:Apparently, the fictional "Barry Bishop" has less to compensate for, if you get my drift (and I know you do).

I know what you're thinking: "Oh, that's just a coincidence, Belinda. Surely television writers realizing that something like this, rather than enhancing the "realism" of the show, actually detracts from viewer attention while the viewers slap their heads and wail, "You have GOT to be kidding me. 'Barry BISHOP'?!?"

Oh, really? Check it out:I think my point is that I'm ready for "Law and Order" to stop "rip(ping things) from the headlines" and just write some original plots, like they used to. Remember that?

Or I could just keep watching "Dexter" and growing more and more emotionally disturbed.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Dear Bella:

Let me ask you about something I've observed...when I'm in the bathroom, uh, "indisposed," as it were, and one of the dogs comes around, noses the door open, and pokes his/her head in, and I give the command, "goway" (go away), would you like to know what happens? I'll tell you: The dog in question turns around, and GOES AWAY. Admittedly, they don't shut the door behind them when they go, but they do GO.

Granted, we have poodles, which are, according to canine experts, exceptionally intelligent among others of their species. But I've learned from my reading that even a poodle's cognitive skills, such as verbal recognition and the capability to follow commands, is only comparable to that of a toddler's--at most, probably your average three-year-old's. You, my dear, just turned four.

So the big mystery in my life right now is, When I am in the bathroom, pleading for privacy, why can't I make YOU "goway?"

Dogs and horses: SO much easier than children.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Oh, Those Silly City-Folk...

(Cross-posted at Ninja Poodles LOCAL)

If you don't know, we don't get our network satellite feeds from local channels, but rather from east and west-coast network affiliates. So it is that I am privy to this breaking news during the "Dr. Phil" (yes, it's come to that) show:

There is a bull (an actual, live, male bovine, sans udder) running loose on the streets of Newark, New Jersey.

And everyone is acting like it's some kind of big deal. *snicker*

Heck, we have to honk our car horns at goats, chickens and ducks just to get down the street to our driveway every day, and you don't hear us hollerin' about it. Or see us chasing it with a news-chopper, which, in case you're wondering, does nothing toward calming a stressed-out animal and facilitating its capture.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I Should Save This For A Rainy Day, But...

You know me better than that. I'm the person who cannot buy Christmas gifts early, for no other reason than my inability to keep my mouth shut about it for more than an average of 5 days, and THAT is painful.

So, what I want to know is, has anyone else received any spam email with the subject line "MANIPULATIVE CITRUS?"

I am beyond intrigued by that one. Would opening that email lead me to a solution to the nagging problem of manipulative citrus? I mean, sure, every time I pass by the lemon display at the grocery store, I hear tiny, sour little voices, but I thought that was just ME. Wonder what they're trying to coerce me into doing?

But what do I know? I guess the email could contain tips on how to convince your citrus to be MORE manipulative, though why you'd want that, when your Mandarin oranges already think they're better than you (oops--just ME again?), I can't imagine.

Or they could just be trying to intrigue weirdos like me into opening the message, only to find out it's all "penis this," and "Viagra that." *sigh* I guess I'll never know.

But apparently, I'm not completely alone.