Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I love good escapism like anyone else, but as I'm devouring a mommy lit or chick lit book, I find myself dreading the scene when the heroine has a makeover. Suddenly her gray hair is tinted with fabulous highlights. All of her old clothes are replaced with new designer brands that show off the tiny waist she was hiding under her shapeless clothes. And who knew that with a little make up she could accentuate those sparkling green eyes.
Perhaps we're conditioned from our childhood days of Cinderella to believe that the makeover must occur or we're just not worthy of all the good things coming our way. The Prince, after all, is deserving of much more than a date dressed in a Kohls' juniors evening gown, arriving in a rusting Dodge Colt. Even a magic pumpkin will suffice.
But, when I look beneath the superficiality of the makeover scene, I wonder whether this character, usually a mother who has spent her recent years taking care of everyone else, can change inside without the outer metamorphosis. Can she become introspective, realize she has become a person she doesn't know, a person without passion, and then change only within? Suppose she starts taking time for herself rather than devoting all her minutes to the kids. Can't she just curl up in a corner and read novels rather than buying a new wardrobe and going to fabulous parties? Maybe the makeover isn't just a symbol for shaking off the old life. Maybe it's necessary for this character, this woman, to realize her value again.
But the part that really hurts is when they throw out clothes that I know are in my closet. Why can't the heroine ever hold onto those boiled wool clogs and the overalls? Won't she ever have those bloated days again?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Let Me Get This Straight

In the mid 1980s when big hair was on the loose, I finally let my hair down. I was living in Washington D.C. and then Pinellas County, Florida. What chance did I have against the humidity but to let my curly hair do its own thing. So I lived with the curls and became used to getting out of the shower, putting in some hair gel and not thinking about it again.
One of my friends deemed it "romance heroine hair." So I could shake back my curls and pretend to be sexy.
And that worked for me through all of my childbirthing and childrearing years. You know the ones I mean, when instead of putting in contacts, I'd wear glasses so I could nap whenever the kids were napping or watching a movie. When the only make up that got near my face were a few smears of strawberry jam on my cheeks.
This fall, when I had my hair cut, the kind hairdresser offered to blow it dry straight. I'd spent my middle school years trying to straighten it into a page boy, so I knew it would never work, but I let her try it. Something in the world of haircare has definitely changed since my middle school years. My hair was straight and flat. My husband loved it. He bought me a ceramic flat iron for Christmas. I used it once before deciding it was way too much trouble to try again.
Until last week.
That's when I got my hair cut again and the hairdresser straightened it. My husband loved it again, but the comments from friends were the worst.
"Wow, you look 10 years younger," said one.
"You look like one of the kids," another mom said.
"You look really thin," said a third. "I'm not standing by you."
Now, it is not really possible that straightening my hair has taken off years and pounds, is it? The problem is that I'm highly succeptible to other people's opinions.
So, on Saturday morning, before driving to a swim meet, I got up early, showered and blew my hair dry. When is the last time I aimed a hairdryer at my head? Maybe if the temperature was below zero and I had to go out. When my hair was dry, I plugged in the flat iron and painstakingly separated it into small chunks, pulling the scorching ceramic iron along the waves until they fell stick straight. My husband came in and added the finishing curl under at the back.
Three times now I have stood in front of the bathroom mirror, running the flat iron over and over my curls until they're straight.
People keep asking me, "How long does it take?"
I have no idea how long it takes. I don't have time to time how long it takes; I'm busy straightening my hair!
This I do know, it takes 100%, maybe 1000% more time than it used to, because I never did anything to it.
And another thing I'm sure of, now that I'm straightening my hair, curls should be back in style any minute.

Friday, February 15, 2008

"My Head is Like a Magnet"

After 9 years of homeschooling, my daughter started school this year. She's a little more naive than most 16-year-olds and that's why I didn't really believe her when she came home and said people keep throwing things at her head. I mean, she's pretty innocent, but those high school boys are way finished with throwing things at girls to get their attention.
At first it was the hacky-sack boys. During lunch, they play hacky sack in the halls. They did that when I was in college and inevitably, someone walking down the middle of the hall would get hit. She claimed it happened every time. Finally, I gave her some advice that I learned from watching her "Aunt Pat."
When we were reporters in Clearwater, Florida, Pat was terrified of spiders. One practical joker in our office took delight in hiding a rubber spider in places that would startle Pat. She would scream and rave before handing the spider back to Mike, who would hide it again in another place. One day, after finding the spider in her coffee cup, she'd had enough. She took the spider out the front door and stood along the curb, waiting for a break in traffic. Then she threw the spider into the middle of the four-lane street. (Of course, Mike later ran into the street and retrieved the spider, but that's not the lesson I wanted my daughter to learn.)
I told her that the next time they hit her in the head with the hacky sack, she should grab it, run out the front door of the school and throw the hacky sack. (They're allowed to leave school at lunch time.) But before she had a chance to retaliate against the hacky sack boys, other boys began throwing things at her head.
Carrots at a swim meet. Coins and a ping pong ball at lunch. A pencil, part of a pen and a bottle cap during class. "Then he giggled," she told me the other day. "A high school boys giggling is not something you want to hear."
Her friends at school were unbelieving too.
"You're exxagerating," one friend said.
"Watch," my daughter retorted. She stepped into the hall, her friend Lisa right behind her. A hacky sack flew straight for her head.
She glared at the boy.
I think she's becoming famous for her glares, but they don't really serve as a force field to protect her head.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bah, humbug valentine

Happy Freakin Valentine. I'm in a pissy mood. I know I have no right to be. I have a devoted husband who brought me roses and tulips and took me out to dinner last night. But my mood went bad last night when I heard a Congressman really grilling Roger Clements and his personal trainer. I wanted to scream. Who cares about baseball and steroid use? Why don't you go after the President and Vice President who have lied and tortured and sent our soldiers to fight an unnecessary war? Why don't you go after the oil company presidents, who were allowed to testify in Congress without being under oath? But they put the baseball players under oath. Hmmmm. Who is going to affect my life more?
So, I was pissed. Don't we elect these reps to make our lives better. Baseball and steroids. Who cares?
So at 7:30 a.m. this morning, still feeling a little disgruntled, I stood in the CVS with my two sons as they looked at boxes of heart-shaped candy, trying to decide which to get for their "girlfriends." Middle-school girlfriends are questionable. They seem to change quickly.
My 11-year-old grabbed a box wrapped in clear red paper and was ready to go. My 14-year-old hemmed and hawed. He was surly. I suggested this then this then this. "No," he replied each time. A woman standing in the row, exchanged a look and a smile with me.
That set him off.
"You just want me to get her candy so you look good to the other moms."
He accused.
"That's it," my brain said. Actually, it said, "What the f***?"
I know my mouth was open and I stared at him.
"Forget it," I said, starting to walk away.
He grabbed a box of candy and joined me at the register as I forked over money for my boys to woo their girlfriends.
My older son hid his candy in his backpack, saying he would give it to her only if she gave him something. My younger son hopped out of the car in front of the school, clutching the red box in his hand and his brother yelled.
"Hide it. Put it away."
He didn't care. He'll probably have a different "girlfriend" in a few days anyway.
As we drove around the corner, just me and my surly son, I remembered that my anger at his behavior rarely has an effect.
"You really hurt my feelings," I told him.
And he apologized as he slipped out of the car, looking around like a spy before he put on the backpack that held the offending red and gold box of Valentine candy that would go to a girl who loved talking to him before they were "dating." Now she barely speaks to him, because that is the code of middle school girls. Once you have them on the hook, you must keep all hopes and dreams secret.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

I sat watching the primary returns last night with my 11-year-old. He had tucked a blanket over his lap and stretched his legs along the couch as we watched CNN.
Mike Huckabee won Arkansas.
"Will he stop the war?" my 11-year-old asked.
"No," I said quietly.
John McCain won Illinois.
"Will he stop the war?" the question came again.
"No, honey," I replied, feeling the weight of the question.
Next Hillary Clinton won Tennessee and New York and Massachusetts.
"Will she stop the war?" he asked.
And I felt unbearably sad. She voted for this unnecessary war. Most recently she supported President Bush's saber-rattling toward Iran. Would she bring home our troops?
"No, I haven't heard her say she'll stop the war."
Barack Obama won Georgia and Illinois.
"Will he stop the war?" my son asked.
"Yes, I think so," I said, the words of his speech "Yes We Can" ringing in my head.
My son was asking the most important question of our day. Stop the war. Bring home the troops who are dying across the ocean for a war that should never have begun.
But he wasn't only worried about them. He was worried about himself, knowing that whoever is elected this year, might be re-elected again in 2012. And that president might get to make the decision whether U.S. troops should be sent to fight. That president might decide to reinstate the draft, scooping up boys who never thought they'd serve in the military and that might include my 11-year-old. The quiet boy with glasses who wouldn't play football a second season because he didn't like hitting people. (His siblings are exempt from this feeling.)
So I'm asking you, Hillary Clinton, if you get the democratic nomination and then win the general election, will you promise? Will you promise to stop the war? Will you promise to bring home our troops? Will you promise that anytime you consider sending our army to fight a war that you will first reflect on -- 'Is this fight worth my daughter's life? Would I be willing to send Chelsea first to battle this war?'
And if the answer is yes, you would give your daughter's life to save the slaughtered Jews in Hitler's Germany, or the Muslims and Albanians who were being exterminated in Kosovo, then send my son too.
But if you think a war would mostly benefit your wallet and the wallet of your friends. Or if you think a war might boost up the U.S. economy or settle an old grudge, and you wouldn't be willing to let Chelsea die for it, then don't send my son or anyone else's child. Promise?

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...