Friday, March 31, 2006

PP for March

First, let me just say I have no idea how it is that March is gone already. You know what else I don't understand? How can an individual day seem so freaking long (especially at work!) and a week or a month or a year (yes, the years especially) go by so dang quick?

But pointless whining is not what we're here for--at least not this time anyway. It's the end of March and time again for the Perfect Post Awards hosted by those generous chickies at Suburban Turmoil and Petroville.

With no further ado (or whining--but okay, maybe a little whining--do you have any idea how many great blogs there are out there? And how hard it is to pick just one Perfect Post for a month?), my Perfect Post award for this month goes to Tawny over at Blogger's Nightmare for her post The Meltdown.

Tawny and her family are in the middle of moving into a brand new house and they're all understandably excited about the new place and all the possibilities but this post was more about the things they'll be leaving behind. I've mentioned (okay, whined about) growing up an Army brat so it's no surprise that I have a special place for all those bittersweet feelings we experience in those moments before a Big Change. I think Tawny did a great (Perfect!) job expressing those feelings.

So here's my button:A Perfect Post

And, Tawny, it's all yours!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Phone Crush

At the Day Job, a lot of our business is done on the phone. It's not unusual to talk to a customer every other month or so for years on end without ever meeting them in person. There comes a point with every customer when you instantly recognize their voice and can recite pertinent information before they do: the address and person their order will go to, the amount they usually spend, their payment method, etc.

With one customer in particular, that point came much sooner than it has with any of the others I've dealt with in my seven years at the shop. This customer was blessed with an amazing voice--rich, warm, flowing, enveloping. It gets me every time, inspires involuntary cooing and giggling. I once saw actress Dana Delaney on a late night talk show describing her trip to South America. She said she'd stepped off the plane in Brazil and the heat, the humidity, the teeming crowds and strains of music from the street musicians, "went straight to my crotch." The Voice is kinda like that. I have to steel myself against it. And it's a major effort.

My only defense is to remember the week a few summers ago when I got to meet The Voice in person. The Voice calls to mind tall, dark, handsome, charming but not "slick," sexy but not smarmy and a whole host of other appealing characteristics. The reality of The Man Behind The Voice is stocky, average height, minimal neck, and very, very hairy--troll hairy, the kind of hairy you can only suspect when you see a fully dressed man, that hints of the horrors that lie beneath.

The day after I first met him, I made a delivery to his parents house and was greeted by TMBTV wearing shorts and a tank top, which left his pelt alarmingly visible. This is a profoundly hairy man--so hairy, in fact, that the tattoo on his right shoulder reminded me of moss-encrusted statuary you see in cemeteries and at battlefield memorials--you almost want to scrape away the moss, but can't bring yourself to touch it. He was sweating a little because it was so humid and he had been moving tables and chairs all morning, so each strand and clump of hair glistened in the morning sun, winking in an ominous and repulsive way.

I'm not in general a squeamish person--I mean seriously, would I have made it this far with four kids without requiring electroshock therapy if I were squeamish?--but thatch-like body hair not only repulses me, it actively alarms me.

In this case, that alarm is a good thing because it's the only thing that keeps me from making a total idiot of myself every time he calls. I counsel the primal response to his voice with reminders of the visual reality: "He's hairy, he's hairy, he's hairy, he's hairy."

And, most of the time, it works.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


In 17 years of parenting, my most constant companion has been doubt--guilt often runs a close second, but doubt is the undisputed winner. The is-this-the-right-thing-to-do's and the will-this-or-that-decision-be-the-one-that-scars-them-for-life's have buzzed in my brain from morning until night for years on end and sometimes caused nightmares that woke me from what little sleep I managed to get.

I'm happy to report that when it comes to mothering an almost-twelve-year-old daughter, all doubt has been removed. There is no doubt whatsoever that absolutely everything I do, say, and am is completely, unequivocally, totally, one-hundred-percent wrong.

The certainty has its comforting moments--of course, I'd rather be right than wrong, but I have to admit there's a certain sense of freedom in knowing I can't win--it's a lot easier to throw up my hands, flip a coin, just wing it when I know I can't possibly be right. Just by being, I am already wrong. I've got nothing to lose.

I'm exaggerating, but only a little and if you have an adolescent daughter or, for that matter, can remember being an adolescent daughter, you know exactly how little I am exaggerating.

A short list of recent infractions: I woke her at 7:45 (as she'd asked) and was informed that's too early. Next day, I woke her at 7:45 (as she'd asked) and was informed that it was too late. I bought her an alarm clock to eliminate this issue. The alarm is too loud and it's not loud enough and it's too hard to set and I didn't remind her to set it and WHY do I keep reminding her to set it? She's not a baby! She says we don't spend enough time together, but when we do, she can't stand the sight of me, the sound of my voice, the activities I pick for us to do together...

OK. I'm exaggerating again. But, again, just a little.

I may be in danger of being disloyal to my gender but I have to say, in my experience, the drama of living with a girl on the cusp of adolescence is wholly different and much more, uh, dramatic than seeing a boy through the same passage. All three of my boys have had their surly, door-slamming, I-wish-I'd-never-been-born moments, but they seemed to come less often--and less loudly--than Daughter-Only's you-can't-do-anything-right-moments. Not only that, but the boys seem--have always seemed--less inclined to take my failures as a mom and human being personally and, conversely, less likely to make personal attacks when they're in a bad mood.

Do the early stirrings of womanly hormones account for some of the mood swings? Most likely, but that's of little comfort, considering the fact that we have to spend (at minimum) another six-plus years under the same roof. And, honestly, Daughter-Only has always been more drama-prone than her brothers. She has been so high maintenance at times that I have joked that if she had been my first child, she would be an only child.

Every time that joke comes out of my mouth, I feel the sharp pinch of guilt. I hate catching myself comparing my children to one another. I know from personal experience the way accidental, offhand comparisons can breed years of resentment between siblings and cause all sorts of self-image issues. But, really, I don't mean it in a bad way.

My relationship with Daughter-Only just seems so much more tangled and complex than mine with her brothers. Sometimes the boys hate me and sometimes they love me and mostly they just ignore me until they need something from me, but I'm always reasonably sure that we'll all get over it. With Daughter-Only, it seems like every single thing (especially lately but, really, since she could talk) is a matter of life or death. Is it that she's a girl or is it just that she's who she is and the girl thing is incidental?

One thing you can be sure of--whatever I think the answer might be, I'm soooooo wrong.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bowled Over

A group of us went bowling a week or so ago. Every time we do it, we talk about how fun it is, and cheap and how we don't do it nearly enough--and still somehow we only do it once or twice a year. Anyway, Son-Two and I were sitting together at the little scorekeeping table where he was mostly making fun of my inability to understand more than the barest minimum of how to keep score and my brother--Baby Brother even though, you know, he's going to be thirty-two in two days!!!!-- was helping his daughter bowl her first ball in the tenth frame.

In much the same voice he was using to lecture me on scoring, I say to Son-Two: "Now, we're going into the tenth frame where, if you do well, you get three balls. Of course, in nature, three balls is considered an anomaly."

Without missing even a nano-beat, Son-Two says, "Well, I don't know about that, but some people have three nipples and that's pretty hot and happenin'."

I snort out loud before recovering enough to say something about how it kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it? Are those people with three nipples lagging behind a little evolution-wise? Did everyone once have three (or more) nipples? Or are those triple nippled types the next step in our evolution and a couple of hundred years from now, everyone will have three nipples?

Unfortunately and not for lack of trying, I haven't discovered any scientific evidence to support either theory. I do, however, think I've figured out why we don't go bowling more often. It's really loud at the bowling alley and having these sorts of intellectual debates is so very difficult with the clatter of falling pins and slamming, um, balls.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Escort Service

That title oughta really bring out the Google freaks, huh? Ever notice that the more sedate, academic web searchers use MSN while the freaks prefer Yahoo and Google? Countless people researching the Radziwills found my site through MSN's search engine, but the ones searching for "masked women" or "tight Lycra" or, best of all, "mom made son wear high heels," they all use Google, or once in a while, Yahoo. My point? Well, actually, I don't have one, and if you were expecting one, I sure am sorry to disappoint.

Now on to the subject at hand. I learned to drive the summer I turned fifteen, under the watchful and not-so-patient eye of my grandfather. Pap had a beat-up Subaru sedan that he put into my inexperienced hands for an hour or so each evening. I would make the rounds of the narrow, rutted dirt roads that extended for miles in any direction from his house and Pap would minutely critique my every move.

Some of the things he told me really stuck with me. To this day, when I catch myself following the next car too closely, I hear his gravelly voice: "Look out the windshield--you see the hood? You know the engine's under there, right? If you hit the guy in front of you, where the hell's all that going to end up? In your lap--that's where!" When I pull a "rolling stop" at one of the many quiet intersections in town, I remember Pap pointing out the subtle shift your upper body makes when you come to a complete stop--nothing else counts as stopping.* When I brake in the middle of a curve, I remember, "Never brake on a bend. Once you're in it, it's too late to slow down. You'll steer better if you gently accelerate." (None of these things should be construed as advice since I am not a professional driver--as will become crystal clear later in this story.)

Like most people, Pap practiced much less than he preached. Every one of my siblings and I have memories of him doing 65 on a dirt road, 80 on an open stretch of two-lane highway, driving with his leg propped on the bit of dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. A few of us even have memories of "The Queen of Hearts" period: Juice Newton blaring on the 8-track player, Pap tapping the accelerator in time to the music--making the whole car and everyone in it dance in time to the music. ("Dance" in the sense of neck-jarring, involuntary jerking back-and-forth, a little too similar to an epileptic fit to be altogether enjoyable.)

It would be easy to blame my subsequent driving record on my poor grandfather--on his "do as I say, not as I do" teaching method--but the truth is much more nefarious and complex. So, whose fault is it that I've totaled not one, not even two, but three vehicles since I got my license twenty-some years ago?

I'll let you be the judge: All three of those vehicles? They were Ford Escorts. I've never even been in a fender-bender with any other vehicle, but I've totaled every Escort I've ever driven.

*Rolling stops are so common at some of the intersections in town, I call them "stoptional signs." These are signs at which it is no less illegal or inadvisable to roll through, but the odds of a collision or a ticket are so low you could get away with it 99 out of 100 times.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Comeback, In Which I Pull A Muscle Patting Myself On The Back

It's been said that nobody likes a smartass. To this I say: "It's way better than being a dumb ass." But, even more importantly, I think the proliferation of shoot-stuff-out-your-nose-hysterically funny blogs has disproven that old wives tale. Clearly, there are people out there (myself very much included) who not only like smartasses, but love them.

As someone who has cultivated my smartassitude for more than three decades, this is great news. That cultivation has led me to moments like the following, which I share with you now trusting that you are all of the likes a smartass persuasion:

The Scene: The shop the other morning. One of the shop groupies, a wannabe lecherous older guy who's been loyally and happily married for a bazillion years but nonetheless likes making dirty jokes and randy comments, many of which are hysterically funny, was talking about a conversation between him and an equally unlecherous lecher friend of his.

Wannabe Lecher: R and I were talking about what heaven was going to be like and we decided it would just be acres and acres of boobs.

Me: Yeah, and then when you and R get there, there will be two more!

What's not to love, right?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Post About PP

As you begin to read a Mommy blog post with PP in the title, you can be forgiven any trepidation you might feel, since you know we've all heard more than enough about bodily functions.

In this case, the PP is for Perfect Post Awards--an idea dreamed up by Lucinda and MommaK. And, not entirely coincidentally, the PP is also for Penny Pressed over at Fashionable Chaos who is the recipient of my Perfect Post Award for February for her post "Unrequited and it feels so good." This post captured the rich complexities of real romance and it even did it on Valentine's Day, that day dedicated to reflexive expressions of expensive, and not necessarily real, emotions.

So here's my button--A Perfect Post

And, Penny, it's all yours!