Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gun Shy

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails...

I've never figured out exactly WHAT a snip is, but whatever it is, it's a boy thing. I'm watching my children grow so fast lately it's beyond astonishing. Sometimes I stare at them and wonder how they ever came out of ME. Thankfully, when they are asleep, all curled up together like two wee, baby mice in a hectic tangle of a blanket nest, they still look like my sweet babies, NOT big kids who ride bikes and play ball. (Yes, I just signed Eli up for Little League...he's incredibly to just fit in in around work.)

Despite my attempts always to be completely gender neutral, my boys turned out to be BOYS. And I've figured out that that's precisely what they should be, if that's what they so choose. I'm not sorry they were offered dolls or tea sets, and I don't think it was a waste of time. I'm glad "boy things" were never shoved down their throats, if they choose them now, I can be supportive since I don't feel like they were pushed in that direction. Testosterone is a real thing though, it certainly plays a hefty part in what my boys do. Eli especially.

Eli has become very interested in guns of late. My initial reaction was to talk him out of it, but then I realized it was because I, myself, don't really enjoy them, but he shouldn't be made to feel wrong if he happens to. So, with my blessing, he and Grampa Butchie have been shooting a BB gun at empty cans on the lawn. I sat down to watch the other day and discovered that Eli is one heck of a crack shot. After each firing, Dad would take the gun back, put the safety on, cock it, and making sure the dinky thing was always pointed up, hand it back to Eli and instruct him to aim before releasing the safety. I almost laughed at how ridiculously strict he was being with what looked like a toy, until I remembered what dad was doing, and HAS done, as a hunter safety instructor for over 40 years, which is to always err on the side of caution. I recall my own BB gun days, we all had them as kids, and even though my father was a stickler on safety, it's so long ago that I'd almost forgotten HOW rigid his rules were, even concerning something that probably wouldn't cause much more damage than a hornet's sting.

By the way, when my sisters and I were packed off to Conservation Camp in our early teens, I actually won an award for loading a musket faster than anyone else... I also got into a fight with a counselor because I refused to eat meat (conservation camps aren't likely to offer a vegetarian option, in fact they served up actual road-kill the Fish and Game Warden had scavenged...even if my bout of vegetarianism WAS rather short-lived, the road-kill thing still gives me the willies) Nor would I fish with a hook, I'd just happily cast my bobber out onto the water and sit there all afternoon, daydreaming. Not to mention waging war against the twin sisters in my cabin who made fun of my small breasts five minutes after we met. (For more on THAT topic, see my last delightful Post Of Over-Sharing) I snottily set up a recycling bin in the rec room. (I mean, really, call yourself a CONSERVATION camp?) Oh, and one night, I self-righteously set free the mud puppy/giant tadpole thing that lived in the tank outside the cafeteria. (Whoops, I was going to take that to the grave with me, but now I've gone and blabbed it.) Sorry to disappoint you, Pops, but despite my winning the titles of Camp Knot Expert, Camp Naturalist and the aforementioned swift muzzle loading, I wasn't exactly a dream camper after all. (In fact, looking back, I think I was more likely considered a Pain In The Ass. PETA spelled with an I.)

As aggravated as I sometimes am that Dad and I don't see eye to eye on certain things, (hunting for instance!) I'm grateful that if Eli's interest in the sport deepens, he'll have the best mentor around. I won't worry that he'll accidentally shoot his eye out, (or his brother) or be careless with weapons. Even if he wasn't a very, very smart kid, he'll have it drilled into his head - that it's inexcusable, under in any circumstance, to point a weapon in an unsafe direction. Watching him take careful aim, the barrel propped up on the porch railing, he looks so much like my father that I wish my Grampa Avery could see him. I wish, in a fit of Vermonty nostalgia, that those three could stand on this porch together and target practice. I don't give a hoot about guns, but tradition is a big deal around here and I picture Grampa next to them, giving pointers, and swelling with pride at how well his tiny, muscly, seven year old great-grandson concentrates and dings that dang tin can every time. Once, when Eli built a small log cabin out of sticks and string on Grampa's lawn, Grampa raved about the cleverness of it for WEEKS to anyone who would listen. I think he'd like nothing better than to watch Eli learn to shoot. I wish he could.

Whatever I think about hunting itself, my mixed feelings in that department, or the truly disgusting coyote skins (dad's latest experiment in do-it-yourself taxidermy...oh dear God...) that are hanging inside out, in full view of my apartment, I'm STILL glad that Eli's getting the lessons he is. I'm positive my father doesn't wish he'd had sons instead of daughters, but I'm sure he must have been a left a tad wistful when none of us girls cared to carry on the Howe hunting legacy. I'm glad for his sake, AND Eli's, that this is a special thing they can do together. Anyway, I have no qualms about killing cans. You can still recycle them afterward.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Can't Even Title This...(I tried 'Boobs' but it looked awful, and 'Hubba Hubba' looked even worse)

It's stupid, but my whole life I've worn things that made me look, well...bustier. Push-up bras, padded bras, a certain shirt cut, whatever crazy/wired/painful contraption that would give me the appearance of boobs. Now I wear a sports bra, or no bra. Basically I look like a twelve year old boy. (OK, maybe fifteen, and one who's started working out, I'm not a BOARD, after all. And check out the above picture...I took it because I was in awe at how huge they were when was nursing...sadly, they no longer look like that. In fact I believe they became smaller than they originally were.) But it's as if I have no need for curvy breasts anymore. Is that symbolic? Was it about attracting or keeping a mate? Feeling more feminine? I don't know. I've given up faking large breasts, now that I'm stuck in leotards so often. In my mind, I try to picture lithe, graceful gymnasts, and it boosts my confidence enough to walk into a room full of busty women who have DOUBLED-UP on their sports bras just to take my class. It's been a pride swallowing struggle to finally like my body enough to go out and about naturally, looking the actual size I am.

I've got the sneaking suspicion that I've been very uncomfortable and spent a lot of money on wackadoo bras my whole life for NOTHING. (Do NOT buy the water-filled ones, they tend to leak in your underwear drawer and smell bad.)

(FYI, and just because I'm a nerd: I found out recently that the phrase "Bra Burners" didn't come from anyone actually burning a bra during the 1960's Woman's Rights Movement. That was a reporter's misprint, and it somehow caught on. Protesters were going to burn APRONS or something in a trash barrel on a collage campus, but were stopped. Interesting.)

If you thumb through a Victoria's Secret catalog, you'll find that the so-called sexy bras don't usually come in smaller sizes. Almost like they're saying "If your boobs are that teeny, don't even bother TRYING. You fail at Sexy." (Gymnast, Emily. Think gymnast. Think wood nymph. Think lovely, dancing fairy. In the end, I just think: "I FAIL at Sexy".)

Weird that we women are so consumed by our hatred of fat and yet, go out of our way to display something that ultimately is just that. Big gobs of fat stuck to our chests. When did that particular fat placement become so desired, as opposed to the fat on our asses, thighs, tummies, or elsewhere? Is it strictly because it's are somewhat useful fat? Although technically, it's use is NOT for men's inept fumbling, but for nurturing children...therefore it becomes tenfoldly (pretty sure that's not a word) sought out as a forbidden, amorous thing?

I regard my own breasts with something that's almost fear when I'm feeling a particular burst of hypochondria, as you never know when they will betray, or even kill you. They DO have the power to change your life, cancer or no. A girl who develops early will be scarred by her peer's teasing, a girl who develops not at all, the same. They will be the subject of many whispered tween-ager's sleep-over confidences, the reason someone looks twice at you on the street, the topic of your next doctor's visit. They can cause your back to hurt, your breathing to be heavy when you run (so I've been told), your spirit doused when compared to your friend's filled out swimsuits while swimming at the pool. Boys will snap your bra, your mom will take you shopping for your first one, your dad will hide Easter eggs in it, (Well, maybe not YOUR dad, mine would though, and did, much to my dismay at twelve.) you'll agonize over the straps slipping out from under your wedding dress. Your nipples will be too big or too small or too dark. Who makes these rules? Not the newborn babies who could care less, and yet we all know which category we fall into, don't we?

Did you know that hormones can actually be triggered by the power of suggestion? That BECAUSE OF OVER-SEXUALIZED MEDIA, little girls are hitting puberty a year earlier than they did twenty years ago. Fact. And it's more common for 10, 9, 8, even 7 year olds to start menstruating. Studies have shown that constantly being exposed to overt sexuality on TV, movies, among their friends, pop stars, toys, games, books, suggestive lines of children's clothing, all of it pushing them to act older than they are, actually speeds up their hormones. Which starts a whole wave of health concerns since the earlier you start your period, the greater your risk of breast cancer, because high levels of estrogen will have been in your body from far too young an age.

Whew, I'm glad I don't have TV, turn it on and it's cleavage, cleavage, cleavage as far as the eye can see. Anyway, I have boys. All they're interested in are cars and mud. Maybe they'll grow headlights. Filthy ones.

My friend's sister had a mastectomy a year ago, and then when she tried to cross country ski again this winter, never realizing her center of gravity would be off, she fell, hurting herself terribly. Honestly, breasts can dictate our lives. How we feel about ourselves, what we do, how we move, how we behave. After my young aunt's bout with breast cancer, we all stopped drinking out of plastic bottles. We were religious about check-ups. We did many, many things differently.

Look at the fuss over Barbie Dolls. Look at all the fuss over Marilyn Monroe. Mae West. Dolly Pardon. Breasts have been compared to every type of fruit there is. A famed queen's breast holds claim to have fitted perfectly into a wine glass. (Wine glasses were bigger once, in case you were wondering, 'large goblet' might be a better turn of phrase. I haven't tried, but I bet I can stuff mine into a shot glass, does that count?) Fashions have been built upon them since the beginning of either hide or show off what nature gave us. There are more slang words for 'breasts' than practically anything else. What's the deal, Dudes? Where does your interest lie? Why does fat on our chests delight you more than fat on any other place? How come you get to say: "Have perfect breasts or we won't like you"? Do you think we have some choice in the matter?

I'm not saying every man is guilty of this. I know a handful of men (Ha! Handful!) that seem to prefer smaller busted women. (Anyone who dates the Howe girls, for example.) Or they at least pretend to, describing delightful intellect and razor sharp wit (Yes, I'm being sarcastic) as our attractions rather than wobbly bits you can impressively pack into a bikini.

(I should have done some research before I wrote, but that's not my way, unfortunately. I'm just yammering, as always, about nothing, or about how I feel, which amounts to the same thing. And I'd like to say, off-hand: I've got two grandmothers that read my blog. One will find this post hysterically funny, one will not, but neither of them have much in the way of breasts either, so this is really all their fault. Go figure.)

I remember pouring over National Geographic as a child and being fascinated with the native women's exposed chests. Always bare and all very different. What do primitive tribes feel about breasts? If I had Internet while typing this, I could find out in a split second, but since I haven't, I'm going to go right ahead and wildly speculate they don't think about them that much. Breasts are looked at as functional, admittedly somewhat pleasurable, (since one can't deny that whole nerve ending thing) but are they as closely scrutinized as they are here, in THIS culture? Veeeeeery doubtful. What morons we are. We have an entire, zillion dollar (more of my super accurate, non-Internet research here) industry based on making woman's breasts perfect. When nobody really seems to understand is that 'perfect' is what you've already got.

Boobs are boobs are boobs. Whatever size, they do what they're supposed to do. Anyway, you have 'em, or you don't. I think women who have lost them due to illness have every right to feel crappy, because that's certainly no fun, and plenty scary too, but I'll bet my training bra we've made a big deal out of them for naught. Half that crappy feeling is due to our bimbo-obsessed society, not being sick.

To wrap this up, I'm quite curious as to why we fixate on breasts. Myself included. Despite generally being happy with my body, and all my blather proclaiming why I shouldn't care what size/shape/etc I am, when poor people hear that old saying about 'money not buying happiness' they usually reply that they'd like to find out for themselves. And I still sometimes sigh with envy as I privately think: I wouldn't mind trying some giant knockers on for size.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Ahead

Mud has mired me briefly, but have no fear, it too will pass. All my winter misery and self-pity will melt shortly and I'll have no cause for complaint. Looking ahead to Spring with a heart full of hope. Things will be better, they have to be. Just hearing the birds calling as I stand on my deck in the morning means everything. Quite different from the icy silence of a frosty January morning when you shiver and are convinced summer will never come again. Scraping my car windshield will be but a distant memory! I do feel rather harried at present, not able to give Spring as much attention as I'd like, but somehow knowing that the sun will come back soon helps so much. I'm working three part time jobs and feel like I rush from place to place every minute. It must be sheer luck that I manage to walk out the door every day with my head still attached. Poor Ira has been such a good sport...getting dragged along everywhere, "Hurry, hurry!" I'm always saying to him. He's probably going to remember these years as nothing but the corner of some school gym, eating endless animal crackers while Mummy dances. No, not true. The kids and I have gotten plenty of little adventures in lately. And plenty of creamsicle eating, with our feet dangling off the porch, soaking up early sunshine. That's been my favorite thing this last week, having some time to sit STILL, with my boys and do nothing at all together.

We went up to Unadilla last weekend to see the lambs. Sweet, wee things, slurping milk from old beer bottles. The tiny runt wearing a fleece jacket and living in Ann and Bill's kitchen is especially darling. Trotting around, stumbling a bit on it's mini, polished, high heels, following them everywhere. There's something akin to hero worship in the way lambs follow children that have just fed them from a bottle, I love watching it. And somehow a newborn lamb reminds me of my own babies. Curious and trusting and comical. Little clowns, all of them. All babies, everywhere.

Sorry folks, haven't any deep thoughts today. (Ha! As if I ever do!) My mind is elsewhere, thinking of the one million other things I need to think of, but Spring is well on the way and I'm feeling awfully glad about that. There's certainly something to be said for the absence winter gear needed before leaving the house, cuts many, many minutes off our departure time. And I need all the minutes I can get. Daylight Savings Time? Bring it on. Adds more minutes for creamsicle eating.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Town Meetin'

I came down to the school early this morning, for two reasons. One, to use the Internet...I had some work to do and alas, Internet up on my hill seems unlikely. (Wait, let me rephrase that: AFFORDABLE Internet seems unlikely anyhow. But I see across the gym, some folks are setting up an EC Fibernet booth, so I'll grill them in a couple minutes.) My second reason for coming to Town Meetin' early is to drop off my pie. I was unreasonably proud that I was asked to actually bake something for the lunch instead of just donating pasta sauce or butter along with everyone else...shows that I'm one of the trusted few that can be asked to make an apple pie that'll pass muster by the road crew, school board and my neighbors. It's the little things that make me feel good lately, don't judge! (And that's not my pie pictured above, by the way. I don't know how to do any of that fancy icing stuff.)

I love Town Meeting. It always smells the same. The gym looks lovely this morning. Isn't that silly? Thinking a gym looks lovely? But it does. There are some quilts on display in front of the window, the sun is seeping through the fabric in such a way they appear to be stained glass instead of cotton. The library ladies are bustling about, getting the water hot, spreading out the desserts, passing out little fliers on all the folding metal chairs.

There is a feeling of anticipation in the room. The room HOLDS it along with the scent of freshly perking coffee. Only a handful of folks are here yet, fire department representatives, the Town Clerk, the backbones of our community are all getting ready to stand up before us and tell us what they need to tell us, all the information that keeps our town running smoothly and not-so-smoothly throughout the coming year. Laughter spills out here and there, as more people start to trickle in and the sunshine makes it's way to more windows.

Perhaps one might consider this to be an everlastingly dull day, sitting and listening to report after report. But I know every single person that will stand up and speak. I will be hemmed in on all sides by the pastor and the lister and my youngest son, and somehow it feels not dull at all. Parkas will be draped all over the place and baseball caps will be under the chairs. Ballots will be torn from receipts and notebook paper and corners of the Town Report. Jokes will be made. The microphone will squeal with protest as someone gets all flustered and throws their hands in the air.

There will be arguments and compromises and understanding and whoever attacks someone else on the floor will stand together with them in the lunch line and trade quips about their Grandchildren and last night's race on TV. Because whatever else happens, we are still a town. We are Tunbridge, and today we sit, squinting in the sun, and care.