Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Story Of My Life

Stories...I know so many. And they are all good. Gooooooooooood. Bite-your-teeth-in, juicy-good. Full of flavor. Proof that truth IS stranger than fiction, and a dang sight more amusing too. That's the most wonderful thing about living in a small town, you have easy access to the BEST tales. Everybody has a quirk, everybody has a story. Stories are so thick, it's a writer's paradise. I can't think of a person I know, that I couldn't tell you a hilarious story about. I love that. I love that, and I hate that, 'cause I won't. Won't tell you, I mean. That's the worst thing about living in a small town...it'll only take an hour before everybody's talking about it, things spread like wildfire if I say one word. And no matter how my fingers itch to write them down, to share these things with you, I wouldn't hurt my friend's or neighbor's feelings for the world. And maybe it's the reason why life in this precious place works...because there is a mutual trust not to exploit or betray each other, to band together, look out for one another, even the man with the porta-potty business next door. So, safe in my head, I think them all out, useless little stories and anecdotes that could make me a nice living somewhere else, but not here...here they'll just get me dirty looks at the post office. And here is where I want to be.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Here's a big, big, bummer: I have a cold. Not SUCH a huge deal really, I've been healthy all winter, we all have, it's been great! But...yesterday was Eat-ster and I tasted nothing. Zip. Nadda. The congestion has knocked out my sense of taste completely, like never before. Even a jalapeno did nothing. The stupid part was, I KEPT EATING ANYWAY. I literally felt like I was chewing cardboard all day, and I still didn't stop. I won't even torture myself by giving you the details of Jana & RJ's amazing German brunch, and of course, my mother-in-law's always fantastic dinner. It all LOOKED beyond delicious. And from the way everyone else was putting it away, I can only assume it WAS delicious. I think we should have a do-over next week.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Two days before Easter. On a web site side-bar this morning, I spotted an add: "The Only Guide To Ham You'll Ever Need" Hell, how many guides to ham can there be? Slap some honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup on the sucker, stick it in the oven until the little doo-hickey pops up, and there. Ham. (Whoops, saying "Hell" isn't very Eastery of me. What would the Easter Bunny say?)

Speaking of hams...here's a shot from Easter Morning...1982 or so. People don't still do this to their kids, do they? Somehow, I don't think we loved the whole Easter-bonnet-tradition very much, although, hey, what's not to love? Piles of cheap, starchy, K-Mart lace, stacked around your head, and held on by a little elastic band that cuts into your chin. Yay! Let's go to church!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Green Up

Really, being titled "Green Up" these shots should be of green things, but sorry, they're not. Just a quick photo recap of the last few days. We danced during the Mud Season Variety Shows over the weekend, I worked every night, got our taxes in, riding lessons, kids are on break now... so many things going on that my head is a'whirl with it all, but I see the fields misted over with that pale emerald haze and the hills turning a faint purply-brown with buds swelling, and the anticipation is out of this world! Thrilling to think that summer is around the corner. Love watching the green-up...the green getting so bright and intense you almost can't believe it, yet the next day, it's even GREENER. Incredibly welcome after a long winter of black and white. I've been so thirsty for color, and finally, the April rains are washing it back into the landscape this week.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Ira was holding the refrigerator door open this morning while I was making his toast..."Can I have yogurt?" he asks me. "After breakfast" I said. "Can I have a cookie?" he asks next. "After breakfast" I reply. "Can I have beer?" he asks. And Eli shouts, exasperated, from the next room "Geez, Ira...AFTER BREAKFAST!"

Then: Ira notices what I'm doing and, "NOoooooooo! I don't want jelly! I want that stuff that comes outta bee's butts!"

So..."Will you put the jelly back for me?" I ask Ira. He throws himself down flat on the floor and groans deeply, "I'm tired of being your helper."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Muscle Memory

This morning, I had a craving for doughnuts...I haven't had one in....who knows?...a long, long time. Justin grabbed a bag at the general store, and the first bite sent me on a tailspin to Instant Nostalgia Land. Gram and Gramp Shepard's house. Where there was always one of those big, thick, glass jars on the kitchen counter, full of home-made doughnuts...even after Gram's mind started slipping and she was eating flour by the handful, not to mention cat food, on occasion...the doughnut jar remained full, at all times. I wonder sometimes, how she managed to make them still, without hurting herself, or having them taste awful, in the very least, but I suppose it was simply muscle memory. She had ALWAYS made us those doughnuts, and BY-GOD, she always would.

It's funny, I can go quite a while without thinking a lot about, or missing terribly, some of my departed loved ones. Gram and Gramp Shepard, I am reminded of every time we drive by their place, which is pretty much daily. When we pass that big, old, peeling Catholic church, my eyes are automatically drawn up the bank to the black and white house with the Adirondack chairs out front. In my mind, I can still see the blue canvas hammock, fringed and faded, on the lawn, Gramp smoking his pipe near the lamp post, humming tunelessly to himself, Gram in her cat-eye glasses, one of those thin, cotton, flowered dresses with the big pockets and her hair curled impeccably.

If I CLOSE my eyes, I can smell them, smoke and cinnamon and furniture polish, musty collector's editions of Reader's Digest. Hear the clocks chiming, so many, all at once, hour on the hour, a heady, confusing medley. I can imagine myself small again, snooping through Gramp's workshop, full of gears, and brass pendulums, and fancy clock hands. We would drag out the giant sack of blocks, smoothed to a satin finish by years of grand children's playtime, and spend hours riding the perpetually squeaky bouncy-horse. I remember peering into the mysterious upper bedrooms with chenille bedspreads, using the tiny half-bath up in the hall...the one papered in newsprint, those longhorns hanging in the living room, the curio cabinet full of Currier and Ives dishware, the slanting screen-porch off the kitchen, it's steps leading down into what I thought was the real and true 'Secret Garden' all tucked and hidden in a nook on the steep hillside. I recall how I loved curling up next to the fireplace with that big book of Norman Rockwell prints. Gram served us juice out of cups that Welch's Jelly used to come in, the ones with Tom and Jerry printed on the sides, and every dinner included a side of instant mashed potatoes. Every single one. Gram's voice scolding, "EARL!" rings clear, as if she's right here next to me, and Gramp's pleasant, garbled grumble as we tickled his ears while he dozed in his chair, or after he teasingly prodded us with his cane, "Get along, you Scallywags."

I have never yet, all these years later, gone by their house without my head turning, and involuntarily lapsing into a quick trip to the past. Gramp's out there, feeding chipmunks from his hand, or calling to Joe, his mangy mutt, he must be. I have to stop myself from pulling in, just so I can sit on the front step for a minute. Muscle memory. I sigh and drive on.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring, not quite

Sitting here, sipping cocoa
From a cup that says:
'My friends went to VIRGINIA
And all they brought me
Was this lousy MUG'.
Eaves are dripping,
Dog licking
Registers ticking.
Rhythms of my life today.
Clocking time.
Cold, clammy, ugly and dark.
Chilled directly through my heart.

Last night it fogged
So hard, you could have missed
Your own house.
Crept right past before you knew,
Eyes only for the white line.
Swerving sharp around
The first frogs of the year,
Those tiny, sad-looking lumps
Looming up on the road,
Shoulders hunched,
Waiting for the sun.
Fifty deer, wet and hungry,
Ears pricking up out of low, grey clouds,
Spread across
A matted field,
Nibbling like a Serengeti herd.

I just deleted the last three stanzas of
This poem.
All mopey and melancholy and morose.
Feel much better now.
If only this pre-season
Of dank and brown and damp
Could be
Abbreviated so easily.
With my shoulders hunched,
For the sun.
Drip, drip.
Lick, lick.
Tick, tick, ping.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What's in a name?

I'm awfully excited that a bunch of my nearest and dearest are having babies! Babies are cool. I like 'em. They wiggle and squeak and wave their fists around and drool, and we think it's just the last word in cute. And since I'm not having any more, no way, no how...unless somebody else makes one for me, I see them as especially precious commodities. Maybe I'll find another to be mine at some point... who knows. Whenever. I'm patient. Nice to be away from diapers for a while anyway. For now, I'm thrilled enough to pat my friend's bellies and buy teeny-weeny little overalls for other people.

I've spent lots of time sharing birth stories and recounting pregnancy woes, I did not do knocked-up gracefully, the way my friends do. They all seem so serene and lovely and Madonnaesque. The cliche' of GLOWING even. Not me. I was cranky and ugly. You know I was. I did not glow, I glowered.

And I've been very, very helpful, suggesting bizarre names, straight-faced, just to see reactions from parents-to-be. People have such shockingly different tastes when it comes to baby names. Myra goes for the ugliest names imaginable: Mabel, Fanny, Bertha and Gertrude, (No offense Mabel, Fanny, Bertha and Gertrude, you know your names are dopey, just as I know my name is boring as shit.) Jana is loving the names that are very American or Irish sounding, probably because she's German. (I don't know what that has to do with it, actually, just my random commentary.) Meg seems to have a wide range going on. Melody and some others are not sayin' much about what their picks are because they know everyone will probably make fun of them. Smart move, there. I'm not meaning to discount the father's choices or opinions, only it tends to be more of a woman's driving force that gets a baby named. As it just came barrelling out of HER womb, she can usually name it anything she wants. Not many will argue with that.

IF I ever had another baby, girl names that top my list are: Trixie, Sylvia, Una or Ilsa. Boy names that strike my fancy are Wyll, Ansel and Saul. Poor, poor things. Good thing I'm not naming my friend's little ones, eh?

Other than my irritating onslaught of "you should name the baby ---------", it's nice to be the Wise-Woman...to be asked for advice. I don't think I had my kids early or anything, just happened to be earlier than most of my friends. Been there, done that. You want to know why your butt hurts? Gotcha covered.


(One of those blog post written while not ACTUALLY high, but late enough at night that you might as well be.)

Isn't it weird to be inside your own head? I spend too much time wondering if everyone else really DOES think and feel the same things I do...I'm not sure I can make you understand what I mean here, exactly...not just the whole are-we-are-all-the same? thing, but deeper than that, what does it feel like to be stuck in YOUR head? I'm wondering if this question is along the same lines as trying to describe the color red to someone who's born blind, there's just no way to make them understand. Since I'm the only one in here, it feels to me like I'M the center of the universe. The world revolves around me, from where I stand. But you must feel that way too, don't you? See, I'm in here, looking out of MY eyes, feeling the sun on MY skin, smelling mud with MY nose...it's a little me-orientated. Sometimes it's lonely and scary, not knowing if I'm going it alone, not knowing if it's the same for you, no matter how similar we humans are supposed to be. Are we all in the same boat? If we ARE in different boats, I wish they were the glass-bottomed kind, so we we could get a glimpse in.

They say dogs always jump up to try to lick a person's face because they sense that's the most important part, the part that matters, your head houses YOU, all your senses originate there, the rest of your body just supports your brain, kinda like a tree holding a tree house. Does this make any sense? I'm in total agreement with the dogs, which maybe means I'm not in touch with my body enough, and that I'm too isolated, up in my own head. It's just crazy, because there's no way anybody else can come in here with me, and I adore company. Occasionally people I love get close, almost as if I can hear knocking outside the tree house, but the trap door doesn't open. Kindred spirits can play on the tire swing, but this tower room holds me, and only me. (Sorry, I'm going nuts with the bad similes today.) Is this normal? Do you feel completely alone in your thoughts and feelings? Do you think most people do?

The only time I really mind feeling like a warped version of Rapunzel is when I'm afraid of something. You know, when that wave of cold-heat washes over you, that heart pounding, chilly, sweat of terror. When words others say don't even pierce your fear. Hearing someone tell you "everything will be fine" simply doesn't cut the mustard, comforting words bounce off your ears, locked out, because you are ALONE. The only one scared, or sad, or whatever. The only one in your head to face whatever demon you're facing. Being alone is overwhelming then. Hello panic attack.

(There's nothing up with me, by the way, even though I sound looney tunes at the moment. Rap on [tree house] wood. Loving this glorious day, loving my life, happy, content, busy, all well. I need no psychiatric evaluation. Just one of those things I was thinking about. And thinking = typing, for me.)

Anyway, it's strange that I'm writing this, because I'm a pretty laid back person these days. I've convinced myself that I'm just along for the ride, and what ever happens, was supposed to happen. Made my peace with the fates. Though you can't control the situation, YOU are in charge of how a situation effects you. Mostly, that's what I believe, and how I live. But it's still hard to over-ride the yucky stuff life has to offer. And hard to over-ride pre-programmed-before-birth tendencies to hang out in my tree house and worry. Paranoia runs deep. Starts in my roots and travels up every branch.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

go snow go

The snow will go when it goes folks. That's the deal. Yesterday I saw a elderly woman on the side of the road, a scarf covering her curlers and wearing A BATHROBE, no joke, whacking at a snow pile at the end of her driveway with a pick-ax. An honest to goodness pick-ax. We don't even own a pick-ax, where does an old lady get one? (I think at ninety, they should take away your driver's licence AND your pick-ax.) Anyway, as I was saying, leave the stuff alone! It'll melt at some point, I promise. Everywhere I went this week, I spotted people shoveling piles of ice out onto bare spots, hoping to speed up the process. I admit to giving it a kick now and then, myself. Sure, it's a somewhat satisfying thing to do, like the way you breathe on snowflakes that gather in a crease of your jacket sleeve, just to watch them shrivel and melt right before your eyes...it's like that, only on a larger scale, I guess. But the truth is: we don't need to bother, OK? It's on the way out and spring is on the way in. With or without our help.


Am I rude? Today, when I was running errands in South Royalton, I was about to go into the diner when a friend called to me from the sidewalk. One foot in the door, Ira had already rushed on in ahead of me, I paused, maybe twenty seconds, to answer her question, but it was twenty seconds too long for the cranky lady who stalked over and told me I was a rude and inconsiderate person for holding a door open to talk to someone while it was FREEZING outside. (I, myself, was only wearing a thin raincoat because it's somewhere around 42 degrees.) Anyhow, I felt really bad, like I was the biggest jerk in the world. Especially when I heard the woman complaining, loudly to her companion about how thoughtless people are these days. Was I? Was I just being dumb and careless? Should I already know the answer to this?

The other night at Zumba, I had another "rude" moment when halfway through the class, I took a quick break to swig some water and looked around the room to see who was there (My back is usually to everyone while we dance). The town pastor caught my eye, granted, she's a doll, very kind and fun, but still I frantically sorted through my memory to recall what music I'd been playing all evening, and blushed deeply knowing it was the raunchiest of the raunchy. There's a reason the class is labeled PG-13. I know it wasn't a true issue to worry about, after all, she's a grown woman, married, probably heard everything, and she's choosing to attend my class, but still, it felt a little rude of me to be grinding my hips with a minister right behind me, you know?

Sometimes I catch myself staring into space when people talk to me, and then wandering away before they've finished saying whatever it is they were saying. How rude. Sometimes, I forget to return phone calls and e-mails, I don't mean to, it just happens. How rude. Sometimes I tell people we'll hang out soon, and then I never make an effort to make it happen. How totally rude. Sometimes I watch something lame on the computer and don't bother to do the dishes, and then I complain the house is a mess when Justin gets home. Utterly rude. I always stick my tounge out when someone tries to take my picture. Rude. I tell people when I hate their shirt. OK, only my sisters, but still...it's rude.

So, fact is, it seems I'm a little rude, or maybe a lot...depending on if a draft from an open door went up your house-dress and got your panties in a twist.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Teenage injustices, I once could name a zillion, now they elude me, all but one...The Injustice Of The Pink Prom Dress.

Our high school Junior Prom wasn't just limited to Juniors the way it is other places. See, our school was so tiny, you had to open prom up to all grades because otherwise, there wouldn't be enough people to make up a party. Get it? So, I was a Freshman, or a Sophomore maybe, technically dateless, attending with a group, when this particular injustice occurred.

I went shopping with friends for a prom dress. It was a lush, simple, black velvet sheath. Fitted like it was poured over me. It was perfect. I had never looked sexy before. With one day until the prom, I tried it on at home and walked into the kitchen...Mom took one look, and I ended up in a borrowed bridesmaid gown. Baby pink, tea length, padded shoulders with bows and nasty, fake satin roses attached to trailing ribbons down the back. Yeah, WEIRD. I wasn't exactly the girly, prommy-prom type anyway, and hooooooooooly cow, was I mad.

At the dance, the boy I liked, well, HIS date was wearing black velvet, tempting midnight velvet that sucked up the light and hugged snug around her ample curves. I went into the bathroom and tore a satin rose off the back of the tacky bodice and threw it in the sink, after I spotted them dancing, her cheek on his shoulder. Uuugghh. Gag me. (Or, I would have liked to gag HER with one of those stupid bows, rather.)

(FYI, Nearly eighteen years later, my black prom dress is now a seat cushion on an antique straight-backed chair in our spare bedroom, I don't recall exactly how that came about, but I remember The Injustice whenever I see it. The pink one got returned to it's unfortunate original owner, and I doubt anyone would even upholster a toilet seat with it.)

But that's not the end of the story, oh, no...the REAL injustice is yet to come.

Imagine my chagrin when my baby sister sauntered down the stairs, stilettos clicking, to depart for her prom, several years later, in what I can only describe as a slightly (and I do mean SLIGHTLY) longer than average tube top. Skin-tight, shiny, black spandex, ending right below her ass. Mom and Dad waved her and her date out the door, without even attempting to smoother her in twenty yards of bubble-gum colored taffeta. Nary a bow or rose in sight.

The unfairness of being the oldest daughter and breaking in the parents. By the time the youngest kid's turn rolls around, they JUST DON'T GIVE A CRAP anymore. So if anyone in my dance classes ever wonders why my shorts are so damn short, that's why. Blame it on teenage trauma.


(That's my profile picture at the moment)

Because sometimes I get on a roll with posting here, and sometimes I ignore this blog in favor of Facebook (or Wastebook, as many people say), I thought I'd paste a bunch of my status updates here for all ya'll that aren't lucky enough (ha ha) to waste hours of your life reading people's random staus updates. Gathering these together like this, I see I've turned into one of those irritating people who respond to anything anyone else says with: "Well, do you know what MY kid said?" Sorry. That's just the way it is. Kids, kids, kids. OK, here you go.

-As a reply to my petulant "Ira, you PROMISED you would pick all those LEGOs up when you were done playing with them." "Well, I won't promise next time, Mommy...Anyway, I'm a BOY, so I'M the boss." No way Jose. Afraid that one doesn't fly around here.

-Eli & Ira are playing with LEGOS. Eli says, "Look Mom!" and holds up an intricate helicopter, complete with spinning propeller, landing gear, and working doors. Ira holds up a colorful clump and cheerfully says, "Mine's a porch that can't stand up!" So, I guess I've got one engineer and one Frank Lloyd Wright.

-Happiness is eating contraband Fruit Loops while you win some sweet booty shorts on Ebay. I'm living the life, folks.

-Justin laminated a fortune cookie fortune that he got years ago, and keeps it in his wallet. It reads: "You're the greatest person in the world." He whips it out whenever we argue about anything.

-Ira wandered in while I was showering and said, "Mom, if you're gonna pee in the tub, pee near the drain." (Sage advice from his father.)

-Hey, Dead River Oil Company? Your name SUCKS. Seriously. Who thunk up that one?

-The kids were fighting something fierce, and when I told them to go into different rooms, Ira shrieked at me, "We are BRUDDERS, why we have to be away from each udder?!"

-There's a dead rat somewhere in the wall. What to do? OK, it might just be a dead mouse, but it SMELLS like a fifty pound dead rat.

-The kids were so bored they ASKED for haircuts.

-Ira has been staring at my backside, through binoculars, from his playhouse window for a while. "I'm SPYIN' on you Mommy, and you are HUGE Mommy." Great.

-Why over-sharers shouldn't use facebook: My kids have the most ferocious gas today. Holy, holy.

-Town Meetin'! Wringing my hands in glee thinking about all the awesome arguments involving firetrucks and zoning I'll get to hear tomorrow. And pie, I'm thinking about pie of course.

-When Ira had the pukes the other day, I let the kids watch endless movies, something we NEVER do. So, yesterday Eli was going on and on about why the road buckles and heaves in the winter and what the road crew could do about it. Then he said, very scornfully and bitingly, "Know where I learned that? From TV. And YOU guys say TV isn't good for me." Such sarcasm at six does not bode well for sixteen.

-Freakishly ALL ALONE in my house at the moment, which means, yeah, I totally just had ice cream for dinner.

-I'm kinda embarrassed to say that I can no longer tell the difference between the high school students, and the law school's grad students walking the streets in South Royalton. They just all look equally...young.

-Is it just me, or does anyone else think that brand spankin' new socks are the best things on earth? Hey, guess what? I just ate an 85% cacao chocolate bar and I AM NEVER GOING TO SLEEP!!!! Zowie! Oh my Lord. My brain may actually be buzzing.

-Best day ever. And the smell of mud to boot!

-Whoops, just accidentally left the back door open a crack when I popped out to chase the dog, and one of the ponies got into the house...I mean, he is only 36 inches high, but still, a horse in the house is pretty weird. Ira was yelling, "Maaaaaaammmmma...Dexter trying ta take my sammich!"

-I just had to order part of our clogging costumes from an online sex fetish shop...because they had the cheapest, quality petticoats around. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

-So, if you sit still for too long while balancing your laptop on your knees, and you don't really notice that your left butt cheek (and then some) has fallen asleep, when you jump up, real quick-like, to answer the phone...you WILL most certainly fall in an undignified heap on the floor.

-Just when I was sayin', "Oh, dearie me, what EVER will I wear to the Valentine's Cabaret this weekend?", Grammy Sammy left two boxes of her 1940's-1970's hand-me-downs on my porch. Check it. Most perfect dress of all time! I love my gram. And this twirly skirt. Helloooooo panties!

-Ignored the Superbowl and went out to eat with friends. But I'm glad to see that Scott wasn't wearing that cheese head for nothing all day.

-Is it inappropriate to wear my tie die union suit with the flap seat out in public? Oh well. Eat your heart out Tunbridge. You all wish you had one of these.

-"Nation Paralyzed By Storm!" I don't know...I don't feel too paralyzed, how 'bout ya'll? Hey fellow facebonkers, look outside! Ain't it purty!?!

-Sorry peeps....I've been so busy, my facebook page is like a ghost town. But fear not. I'm sure things will slow down soon, and I will once again obnoxiously post several times a day.

-Off to sub for the Nursery class. Need to rally my energy.

-Should I buy my father-in-law a puppy while my mother-in-law is out of town? Magic 8- Ball says: "Without a doubt." Should I rely on the Magic 8-ball for decisions of this nature? Magic 8-ball: "As I see it, Yes."

-Eli complained this morning, "My school has those cheap bandaids that don't even stick to you."

-Made phenomenal gingerbread cookies and managed to stick my hand into the potted cactus on the counter. You take the good with the bad.