Monday, April 30, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Daily Posting

"So did you make any time to work on your writing project this week? Probably not, if I know you. I was serious when I said I thought even 10 to 15 minutes of writing a day would be good therapy for you..."
~~Mr. High School, in a letter dated August 6, 2005

On November 1, 2011, I did the same thing I'd done on the first of November for the preceding five years--I committed myself to NaBloPoMo. I never dreamed that that month would turn into another month, and another, until finally, I had somehow racked up six months worth of daily posting.

Tonight marks my 182nd consecutive daily post; I have somehow achieved a goal I never really set for myself--though I committed to one month at a time, making six months never entered my mind. In NaBloPoMos past, I was lucky to make it through the month of November without a string of "I've got nothin'" posts. (My favorite of which can be found here.) This year, things were different because I "met" so many wonderful people in the blogging world and so relished that connection that it spurred me on.

Things were different, too, because I felt motivated and inspired toward writing in a way I hadn't in a while. When I first started daily posting, I was hopeful, almost determined, that the spark and energy I was getting from blogging daily (which includes reading other blogs) would translate into more writing away from the blog as well. It hasn't, though, which has made me rethink my commitment to daily posting.

For the first time in six months, I'm not registered for the upcoming NaBloPoMo. I may still post daily--and I will definitely be posting regularly, but I feel better with that particular commitment off the table.

That said, I've learned a lot of things from six months of daily posting. Primary among them is that I can make a commitment and keep it. I've also learned there is a difference between quality and quantity--and while quantity can be entertaining and challenging, it has made me miss quality all the more. There is also a difference between posting every day and writing every day--and while I may be posting less, I'm hoping to be writing more here and elsewhere.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Educational.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spiral Notebook Sunday: Monday, June 13, 2011

In the past ten years, the entries in the Spiral Notebook journal that are really just entries about why I'm not writing more entries have steadily increased. This is a pattern I am none too happy with.* Writing about writing is one kind of writing, but writing about not writing is something else altogether. Occasionally, though, some bit of useful insight pops up, which is kind of like finding a lint-covered gold nugget while studiously cataloging the contents of one's navel.
Earlier on in the entry excerpted here, I wrote: "It came to me that it might be helpful to list any specific fears I could pinpoint. Just getting to this point has caused me some anxiety--I've gotten up and wandered off a couple of eat breakfast, to run some stuff to Hubby at a job site (not self-initiated but accepted a little too eagerly to be purely innocent)...My point is, I'm afraid to even list the fears, so that's fear number one--"
So, it started out innocently and rationally enough. As so often happens when I put pen to paper, though, I ended up in a place I didn't entirely anticipate. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

...6. Having too much to say--and this is probably the biggest issue--that I will be led down the rabbit hole of my psyche--and it is no mere burrow, but a warren of interconnected tunnels looping back on themselves, dead ending in darkness, full of debris, rotted leaves and globs of toxic mud. I know and I'm knowing more and more that there are things down there that I don't really relish the idea of digging around in. And here is the rational response to that (gigantic) semi-rational fear: that stuff is down there REGARDLESS of whether I'm digging around in it. It is down there and it is polluting the groundwater in my psyche. It is down there, in the dark, and it is impacting my quality of life, whether I pay conscious attention to it or not. Paying attention here--the kind of random, roundabout, half-assed, hit-or-miss attention I am likely to pay here--is an imperfect solution, but it is better than no solution at all. I think. I hope.

*In fact, it is likely that the mere mention of this phenomenon will lead to yet another entry full of that sweet-and-sour combination of admonishment and encouragement that I've come to expect from myself.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Random Quote Saturday

"...she had recently been able to see that life gives you openings both false and true, and that one of the measures of genius is knowing which doors to walk through and when."

~~Haven Kimmel, The Used World

Friday, April 27, 2012

Toys For Girls And Boys

Two things struck me as I was typing tonight's post, which is a short essay that originally ran in November 1996 in a parenting newsletter published by Lexigraphics Publishing and distributed by diaper services around the country. First, I am crazy lazy sometimes and instead of writing a new post (which I theoretically had plenty of time to do today), I am serving up yet another reheated helping of older stuff.

Second, even though 1996 isn't so very long ago (though slightly longer than I really wish to dwell on), there are things about this piece that strike me as hilariously outdated. Maybe that's a good thing.

Toys For Girls And Boys

As an enthusiastic junior warrior in the Battle of the Sexes, my uniform at age seven was a red-trimmed halter top that proclaimed, "Anything boys can do, girls can do better."

Decades later, the battle rages on. Gender roles are in flux and as the mother of three sons and a daughter, I am on the front lines in this war. A good general must use the weapons she has at hand, which in my case are toys.

When our first son was born, there was no question his toy box would be filled not only with traditional boy's toys--cars, trucks, and three-inch superheroes, but with a sampling of "girl's toys" as well. At holidays and birthdays, we spread the word among family and friends.

When word reached my grandmother, who was raised in a generation in which gender roles were taken for granted as divinely ordained, she took me aside. "Just between you and me," she whispered,"your daddy had a Little Lady Housekeeping set when he was four." To my grandmother's surprise, he's turned out okay, despite the hours he spent mopping, sweeping and ironing as a child.

A good general must pick her battles. My grandmother was years ahead of her time in choosing toys, so I didn't bother explaining to her how boys can benefit from playing with girl's toys and vice versa. Different types of play teach different lessons, the theory goes. Girls who play with toys aimed at boys may be learning to assert themselves in ways the Little Lady Housekeeper set can't teach. Boys who play with girl's toys learn lessons in nurturing that plastic superheroes can't teach.

With these enlightened thoughts in mind, I could not resist a self-congratulatory pat on the back the day Son-One, then four, asked if he could take his baby doll, Jason, outside to play. In the Battle of the Sexes, it was clear my side had a new recruit.

A good general never celebrates victory prematurely, however. Peeking out the window in hopes of catching Son-One in the act of sensitive nurturing, I saw instead Jason-the-doll with a jump rope around his ankle being dragged behind Son-One's bike.

Three years later, the battle rages on. The doll, nearly a casualty of war, recovered and received the Purple Heart. Son-One reminded me the other day that his doll's clothes needed washing and his dolly diaper hadn't been changed in months. That's progress I suppose. But I won't rest until Son-One puts those clothes in his Little Mister Housekeeper automatic washing machine all by himself.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ways I Am Not A Grown-Up, The Fourth In A Potentially Infinite Series

"So what?" still strikes me as a perfectly serviceable comeback*. I think of it as the workhorse of comebacks--it may not have mastered the dance moves of a Lippizzaner or have the lightning speed of a thoroughbred, but it pulls its weight when there's work to be done.

*Granted, it's no "So's your face!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Welcome Back, Karo*

One of my favorite bloggers, cdnkaro, made her triumphant return to blogging yesterday after a month or so away. We are all so happy to have her back that we're hoping, on the suggestion of the infinitely wise Jane and her co-conspirator, TangledLou, to flood the comments section of this first post "Testing The Waters" with cheerful and supportive comments. Please take a moment out of your busy blogging day today to stop by and welcome her back.

In other bloggy news, I have been thinking lately about the fact that even though I've never met any of my bloggy friends in person, they have taken up residence inside my brain and sometimes change the way I see the world. For instance, on Saturday, when I drove over a certain stone bridge, I couldn't help but think of Larissa over at Papa Is A Preacher and her fantastic facial   recognition photo posts. So I backed up and took a (waterlogged) photo just for you, Larissa:

*Like Welcome Back, Kotter, without so many sweaty 26-year-old men pretending to be teenagers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Random Quote Tuesday

"He had good days and bad days. It was as if when he lay down in bed for a night certain humors pooled in the right or wrong places, like marinade around a flank steak, and in the morning his nerve endings either had enough of what they needed or did not; as if his mental clarity might depend on something as simple as whether he'd lain on his side or on his back the night before; or as if, more disturbingly, he were a damaged transistor radio which after a vigorous shaking might function loud and clear or spew nothing but static laced with unconnected phrases, the odd strain of music."

~~Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

Monday, April 23, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Catfish

I don't get out much and I'm not much of a movie buff. Even if I were, the town I live in has one movie theater, which can show only two films at a time, so, needless to say, anything labeled "documentary" is unlikely to make it up on to that marquee. The nearest multiplex-style theater is more than forty minutes away.

All this is to explain how it is that Catfish, a documentary that was released in 2010, has only now pierced my consciousness. It came to my attention on Saturday when Daughter-Only and her boyfriend, A.M. could not quit raving about it and basically held me hostage and forced me to watch it.

I'm so glad they did.

I've spent a good deal of my waking moments since then trying to figure out what to say about this film without giving away too much. I've decided that it's virtually impossible to talk about the details meaningfully without spoiling significant portions of the film.

I can tell you, though, that the main subject of the film, Nev Schulman, is appealing and his enthusiasm is infectious. So, too, are the other emotions we see him struggle with as he makes his way through one of the strangest life experiences he is ever likely to have. I can tell you also that Catfish is a story about how people aren't always what they seem and, perhaps even more importantly, it's a story about the way choosing one path in life, choosing to be one self, sometimes feels like selling out all those other possible selves we might've been. It's a story about where those other selves go. What do we give up when we ignore them? What happens when they refuse to be ignored?

It's a significantly deeper story than Nev and his filmmaker friends, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who is also Nev's older brother), set out to tell. It is difficult to watch in places--raw and even a little creepy sometimes--but it is impossible to turn away. At some point during the final half hour of this film, I realized that I had lifted my hand to my mouth in shock and I had no idea how long it had been resting there. At the heart of this film is a somewhat predictable deception, but what I didn't anticipate was the courage and generosity and even compassion that came after that deception was revealed.

I'm embedding one version of the trailer here--the one that I feel does the film more justice. (Apparently, a lot of people who saw the original trailer were under the mistaken impression that it was a horror film of some kind. Please know that that is not the case.) If you click through to watch it directly on YouTube beware spoilers in the comments section.

Before I close, let me add that in searching for the trailer and other information about the film, I came across some "controversy" online regarding the authenticity of this documentary. There are a number of people on the internet who are apparently convinced that the entire thing (or large parts of it) was staged. I will say only this: I personally believe that it is authentic, but to be honest, if it's not, it changes my feelings about the film not one tiny bit--except perhaps to make this accomplishment even more impressive.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Absorbing.

(PS--If you have seen it, I would love to hear what you think. Leave it in a (spoiler-free) comment or send an email.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spiral Notebook Sunday: Friday, February 5, 1993

Keep me home all day with a chest cold, three boys (ages 4 1/2, 3 and 19 months), a dog, a cat and a spiral notebook journal and tonight's entry is one possible outcome.


Friday, February 5, 1993

You know you're the mother of preschoolers when you measure the success or failure of a day by the amount of food you have to pick out of your hair. On the good days, there are only appetizers up there. On the bad days, you might find a nutritionally complete meal up there. (And on the worst days, you use the hairspray before you notice the cauliflower.) So here's a bit of advice from someone who's been there: on the bad days, take heart in the fact that at least you're feeding your kids a well-balanced diet.

Guess what kind of day it's been in the Masked Mom household? Actually--it hasn't been bad. I DID find a stray morsel of semi-moist tuna cat food in my hair, which is what inspired my opening paragraph. Other than that, my only complaint is a nasty chest cold (hack, hack, hack)...Being a mommy with a cold is hard. Not only do you get no sympathy or nurturing, but everything the kids do drives you twice as crazy in half the time as when you're healthy. But even taking that into account, today wasn't bad. I've survived worse and, hey, the cat food could've been canned.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ways I Am Not A Grown-Up, The Third In A Potentially Infinite Series

I am 43 1/2. I still count the half. Except when I don't. Like, for example, the two times this week when someone asked me how old I was and, both times, I said, "I'm forty-uhhhhhh-three. Forty-three." But in those cases, that hesitation was really me just trying not to count the half out loud.

When I was 32 1/2, I was on a flower delivery with eleven-year-old Son-Two along for the ride. We came to a traffic checkpoint where the state troopers were checking for seatbelts, valid registrations and inspections,etc. As we rolled up to the checkpoint, the state trooper checked our stickers and our seatbelts and started to wave us on, but then he said, "Hold on. How old are you? You don't even look old enough to have a license."

I said, "I'm 32 and a half." Trust me when I say that adding the half in that moment did nothing to convince the officer of my maturity.

He did not merely laugh, he guffawed. He said, "Don't you know that once you turn ten, you're supposed to stop counting the half?"

Perhaps I am more mature than I give myself credit for--or at least I was in that moment--because I did manage to stifle the urge to stick my tongue out at him as I drove away.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pass It On

I had an almost entirely unproductive day today--the one notable exception was that I packaged up my copy of Creative Is a Verb and sent it on its way across the country to Graciewilde. Here's hoping she enjoys it as much as I did and takes the same delight in passing it along.

Thanks again to Jane for starting this chain of creative generosity.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Random Quote Thursday

"Above all, you must illumine your own soul with its profundities and its shallows, and its vanities and its generosities, and say what your beauty means to you or your plainness..."

~~Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Comparison Shopping, Part 2 (A Companion Piece)

[I guest posted at Periphery today. This piece is a tangential companion to that one.]

"Revision is when you finally get to recognize the distance between what you wanted to write, what you thought you were writting, and what you actually did write. That recognition often makes you want to throw up."
~~Carolyn See, Making a Literary Life

One night when I was ten, I had a particularly vivid dream about a talking horse. I no longer remember anything the horse had to say, which is a shame, because I almost remember that there was a vaguely philosophical bent to his rambling--perhaps he bestowed upon me priceless wisdom that I am poorer for having forgotten. I do, however, remember with certainty waking up the next morning with a clear mental image of this horse, with his glossy coat and flowing mane and tail.

So clear was this image that I felt certain that even I could draw it. Please believe me when I say that I approached the page with a deep confidence wholly unjustified by any of my previous artistic productions. Here is what I drew:

*This sketch has been darkened by tracing the original lines with pencil so they would show up for this photo. Apparently, pencil starts to fade after a couple of decades; I should probably be grateful.

You will perhaps note that this glorious specimen of horseflesh is hiding his head in shame.The shame, rest assured, was all mine. By the time I had gotten to his head, I was so demoralized, I made his neck longer so I wouldn't have room for my horrendous approximation of his head.

It's surprising to me that this page was not torn out of its notebook in a fit of frustrated humiliation, but I am glad that it wasn't because now I have preserved forever(-ish)* evidence of my first memory of that particular variety of artistic frustration.

I have long since given up on the visual arts--though I occasionally dabble and doodle, my expectations are so low that I'm never devastated by inferior results. Writing, of course, is a whole other story. You know that feeling that you get when you know what you want to say, but there is some weird glitch between your brain and your pen or keyboard so that what comes out is as similar to what you meant to say as a ladybug is to a giraffe?  Yeah, that.

In my guest post over at Periphery today, I talked about the sick feeling we get in the pits of our stomachs when we compare our work to the work of others and find it wanting. The only thing that compares to that feeling--and maybe even surpasses it, for me--is comparing my own work to the picture of it I had in my head.

"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." I've had that Thomas Mann quote etched in my brain for so long, I can no longer even remember when or where I first heard it.  But, as someone who makes multiple drafts of practically everything I put to paper--friendly letters, school excuses, notices to delinquent customers, incident reports, everything--I understand exactly what he meant.

I am a perpetual tinkerer, trying to get incrementally closer to what I meant to say, and I will mess around with stuff I've written almost indefinitely unless I have a deadline. Daily blogging has been great for me in that way because it's meant a daily deadline (albeit a self-imposed one). I have to admit to having quite a long way to go, though--and on those nights when you see a Random Quote (or, say, a picture of a roll of toilet paper on my bathroom sink) posted it is likely that there is a three-quarters-of-the-way written post in my drafts folder that has stymied me.

One of the things I am learning, however gradually, is that when I can't get a thought or an image to come out just-so, it's quite possible that it's not time yet and no amount of tinkering, or thinking at it is going to get it ready any faster. The only thing that helps (when I can force myself to do it), is to set it down and come back later--maybe every day for a week, maybe not at all for six months.

One of the other things that I am learning, also painfully gradually, is that the utter delight in getting it right can carry me through a whole lot of getting it wrong. There's another Carolyn See quote that I adore--and it's taken from the same book as that semi-despairing quote above: "I have to say--self-absorbed or not--that there are sentences of my own I love so much I quote them to myself...Maybe the world wasn't waiting in radiance for me to write those sentences, but maybe I was."

Sometimes, I know just what she means.  And it makes all the difference.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Paging Dr. House

It is truly a House-worthy medical mystery. How else to explain that in a household of four people, the youngest of whom is very nearly 18, and all of whom are ostensibly of at least average health and normal physical development, I alone possess the manual dexterity required to thread the plastic roller through the cardboard tube of a new roll of toilet paper and actually replace it properly in the brackets where it belongs?

My apologies for the graphic nature of this photograph. Please understand it is in no way gratuitious. It is my hope that showing the grisly effects of this as yet unnamed disorder will spur the medical community to action and hasten identification of the illness and the development of treatment options. With enough awareness and action, perhaps--dare I dream?--there may even be a cure in my lifetime.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

On the surface, Mindy Kaling, the writer/director/actress from NBC's The Office, and I don't have much in common. She's the Dartmouth graduate daughter of Indian parents, she's employed in her dream job(s), she's younger than me--though not as much younger than me as her youthful appearance would suggest, she also is far more interested in fashion than I am or have ever been.

One thing we seem to share, though, is that weird balance of supreme confidence and devastating insecurity that I've mentioned here before (#6 on this list). Her confidences and insecurities are both on display in her collection of musings Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). These are short pieces on topics ranging from Hollywood to summer camp to girl friendships to body image issues to men's chest hair* to her writing "process" (hint: ideally it does not involve leaving her bed). In short, they are all over the map--but even the most potentially fraught topics are handled with a deft touch.

Kaling's book is something I read on a whim after seeing her interview on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Like many "celebrity" offerings, it's light reading, but unlike many others, this one's not fluffy. It's smart and funny and revealing--but not in let-me-tell-you-all-about-my-horrible-childhood way.

In my steady diet of books, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? was perhaps not the most nutritious offering of the month, but the calories definitely were not completely empty and I don't regret one bite.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Fun.

*Spoiler alert: she's for it and finds adult men with clean-shaven chests a little suspect.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spiral Notebook Sunday, Monday, January 27, 1992

Tonight's Spiral Notebook selection was chosen as a reminder of a reminder I remembered once before.


Monday, January 27, 1992

The summer I turned twelve, I took Dad's bike out every evening and rode all over Monroeton. They were perfect golden-green evenings--complete peace. Usually I rode out the highway--past a sheep farm, I remember--and then I'd double back through Monroeton's quiet streets. Sometimes I would wander around by the river. It never really mattered what I did. Many nights, I stopped in the deserted parking lot of The Yum Yum Tree and worked on teaching myself how to ride the bike with no hands. And when I'd mastered it--when I could make it up and down the slopes in the lot without wobbling or panicking--I thought to myself that I could be good at anything that I tried hard at.

The way I felt in that moment and the way I felt all those trips around the block is something I need to keep inside myself. I need to keep it in plain sight, where I can pick it up and look it over and remember what it was to feel so certain of myself.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ways I Am Not A Grown-Up, The Second In Potentially Infinite Series

Though I am 43 1/2*, I still have entirely too much difficulty differentiating between a run-of-the-mill bad mood and an existential crisis. In my unrelenting inability to distinguish between garden variety crankiness and a full-on mental health episode requiring medical attention, it seems I am doomed to be 15 forever.

*For our next installment, we will be covering my ongoing insistence on still occasionally adding the "half" even though I have been told by a New York State Trooper that, "Once you turn ten, you're not supposed to count the half."

Friday, April 13, 2012

(Semi-)Random Quote Friday

In a comment on a recent "random quote," Sebtown294 (aka my bloggy friend, JT) asked about how I choose the random quotes I stick up on days when I'm too lazy or disorganized or wrung-out-dish-ragified (if it's not a word, it should be) to put together a real post. It will probably come as no surprise to anyone who's spent much time here, but I have a huge stack of hardbound journals (ten? fifteen? something like that) full of quotes gleaned from a wide variety of sources including books, magazines, blogs, pop music, cartoons, TV shows, my sophomore year high school Spanish teacher.

Though they are billed here as "random," they're really only semi-random, since I fish around in my notebooks looking for something that captures my current mood--or maybe something I hope will change my current mood. So without further rambling ado (which would, I think, partly defeat the purpose of a "Random Quote" post), tonight's random quote, which seemed especially appropriate this week as I continue making my way through Creative Is a Verb.


"Mothers shape love and macaroni and sleeplessness and soap into young men and women over the course of many years; is there a greater art, or a more powerful patient creativity than that?"

~~Brian Doyle, "Why Write" in Leaping: Revelations and Ephiphanies

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Aging Gracefully

In 2002, we were in Washington, DC for my sister's wedding. While we were getting ready for the rehearsal dinner, which was being held in the groom's parents' suite, I was a little frantic* about the effects of suitcase rumpling on the blouse I had planned to wear. I called out to Son-One (then almost 14), "Please bring me the wrinkle releaser!"

He brought it to me and said, "What do you need this for? You don't have any wrinkles."

Flash forward to this week, a mere 10 years later. Daughter-Only is a cashier at the local grocery store. The wife of a co-worker went through her line and Daughter-Only said, "Aren't you Rich's wife?"

The wife said, "Yes, aren't you Masked Mom's granddaughter?"

*Not frantic enough to actually use, or even seriously consider using, the iron that was readily available in the bathroom of our suite. Iron is a four-letter word, have you noticed? And four is exactly the number of times I've used an iron in my entire married life. (Three for each of the boys' gowns for high school graduation and once a shirt Hubby needed for a job interview.) When Daughter-Only was seven, she saw an iron on the counter when we were visiting a friend of mine and she asked me what it was. Needless to say, this friend (who has a serious clothes fetish) was deeply amused.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sometimes It Works

Having had one of those wrung-out dish rag shifts at work, I am going to spend the rest of my waking hours clinging to the fact that not one but two former clients stopped in at the house this week to tell us how well they are doing.

One of them has two and a half years of sobriety, a well-paying job that he loves, an ever-improving relationship with his family. The other has almost a year and a half of sobriety, also a well-paying job and newly strengthened relationships with family and friends. Both of them stopped by to tell us how grateful they are for the help they got at our house.

Please excuse me while I sit in the corner chanting under my breath, "Sometimes it works. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it works."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 09, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Creative is a Verb

"Embrace fear and listen to its messages. It is a part of you like your shadow is. When we know what we most fear, we know what we care most about, don't we?"
~~Patti Digh, Creative Is a Verb

The witty, wonderful and oh-so-wise Jane recently shared with us the story of how she came to read (and fall in love with) Patti Digh's book Creative Is a Verb. So inspired was she by the book, which was a gift from the also witty, wonderful and wise Melanie, that Jane purchased three additional copies and passed all four copies of the book on to other blogging friends. I was one of the lucky recipients and my copy came last week. Though I am only about halfway through the book, I have been overcome with the enthusiasm of the recently converted and couldn't wait to tell you about this book.

Creative Is a Verb, as its title suggests, is a book about creativity. It is not a book about becoming more creative, but about uncovering and embracing the creativity you already possess. It is a pep talk of sorts--sprinkled with quotations and encouragement from a wide variety of sources, familiar and brand new. There are exercises and suggestions, but from the beginning, Digh encourages us to use her suggestions however we see fit--follow them to the letter, use them as a jumping off point to create something that we feel will work better for us.

The book is full of stunning and evocative images--written and visual. It's all so delicious you might be tempted to devour it all in one sitting, but it's a book worthy of savoring, of taking your time with, which I intend to do before passing the love along to someone else in our bloggy little corner of the internet.
It is doubtless a sad state of affairs that we so often long for "permission" from outside ourselves to be true to our own creativity, but it is nevertheless a fact that most of us do and this book provides not just permission, but inspiration.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Generous.*

*This applies to both Creative Is a Verb and the fantabulous Jane.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Spiral Notebook Sunday: Tuesday, October 20, 1987

Lately, Seventh Niece (who will be three in June) has taken to hissing like a cat when she is so displeased that words fail her. She has done it a couple of times to Daughter-Only or I and her mother reports that it's happened at home as well. As the youngest of six siblings, it's perhaps not surpising that she might find herself annoyed or overwhelmed from time to time.

It got me thinking about an incident that happened with another three-year-old in my life--one I babysat briefly just after I got married. I was nineteen at the time and hired to babysit full time, with light housekeeping duties, which seemed like an ideal job to me since I'd always been great with kids and enjoyed being around them.

The reality was somewhat less than ideal. It became apparent pretty early on that nearly four-year-old Lindsay and her seven-year-old brother Corey were demon spawn. In addition, it was a two family household--Lindsay and Corey's mother (Diane) lived with her sister and her two kids, who were teenagers, which meant that the housekeeping was signifcantly less light than implied in the original ad. Within weeks, my paychecks began bouncing on a fairly regular basis. Eventually, I had to threaten Diane with legal action in order to get the last of the money she owed me.

Tonight's Spiral Notebook Entry is a glimpse into a morning with Lindsay.


Tuesday, October 20, 1987

First thing this morning, Lindsay went up to the bathroom and came down bawling hysterically because Vito had bitten her. What she didn't mention was that she had slammed Vito's tail in the bathroom window so he was hanging there by his tail and when she tried to pull him out, he wasn't pleased at all. By the time I got up there, Vito had nearly wiggled himself loose and I lifted the window just a bit to let him the rest of the way out. Now the only question remaining is did Lindsay do it on purpose?

It was a few hours ago and Vito seems to have forgiven Lindsay completely for whatever part she played in this whole episode. As for Lindsay, she had a scratch on her hand that was worth a good ten minutes of whimpering and cuddling, but she seems to have forgotten it completely since then. 

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Random Quote Saturday

"Perhaps her mind is slipping, perhaps she's going off the tracks, perhaps she is coming unhinged. Unhinged, like a broken door, like a rammed gate, like a rusting strongbox. When you're unhinged, things make their way out of you that should be kept inside and other things get in that ought to be shut out."

~~Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin 

Friday, April 06, 2012

I Can Name That Tune In 250 Words Or Less*

[With thanks, yet again, to TangledLou over at Periphery for the nudge in her post The Price Is Right. She asked about loss, specifically she asked what we could write in 250 words or less about "that first time you can remember feeling that sense of loss." The minute I read the prompt, this memory sprang to mind. Though it is difficult for me to articulate exactly what it was, something--maybe even more than one thing--was definitely lost in that moment.]

To many people, a stuffed green olive--the kind we used to call Spanish olives, before we all got a lot more specific about olives--resembles a horrifically discolored eyeball, but in our house growing up, the red pimento center was the olive's tongue. I wasn't a big fan of the olive itself, but if left to my own devices, I would suck the tongues out of a little pile of olives, before ruthlessly discarding their tongueless carcasses.

Perhaps that's what I was doing the night when I was four and it occurred to me that if I stuck one of those deep red pimentos on the nail of my pinkie toe I might be able to trick my mother into believing I'd hurt myself. Regardless of the inspiration, that's exactly what I did, placing the pimento just so across my pinkie toe before running into the kitchen and yelling with an ingeniously convincing false whine in my voice, "Mom! I hurt my toe!"

She took one look and with a gasp, reached for the paper towels with lightning speed and a look of such sympathy and concern on her face that I immediately regretted my attempt at humor. Instead of triumph, I was flooded with guilt.

I had fooled my mother. A little too well.


*The only thing worse than mixing metaphors is jumbling up gratuitous game show references so my apologies to TangledLou, Bob Barker, and whoever the hell hosted Name That Tune. (After skimming the Wikipedia entry on the show, the better question might be who the hell didn't host Name That Tune.)

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Vote Early and Vote Often

Despite the lack of media coverage1, the Republican Presidential Primaries have somehow managed to pierce my consciousness. Most of what I think when I think about politics is not really fit for the blog--too many exclamation points and too much foul language2. Not putting political rants on the blog doesn't keep them from building up in my brain, but my brain has its own defense mechanism and it involves this song:

This is not merely because I wish many politicians (and, please, oh please, the media "personalities" covering them) would go away, but because in 1987, when I was eighteen, and living between Concord and Manchester, New Hampshire, I attended a Paul Young concert in Providence, Rhode Island with three friends.

On the way home from that concert, I got stopped by a New Hampshire State Police cruiser ten feet over the NH state line for "harassing" a limo that we had been following all the way across the state of Massachusetts in hopes it might be Paul Young. 

It was not.

It was Michael Dukakis--governor of Massachusetts & future presidential candidate on his way to Manchester, NH to announce his (doomed) candidacy.

The state policeman said to me, "The driver of that limousine says you've been harassing him. Have you?"

And I said, "Not on purpose, sir."

He didn't give me a ticket3, just held us up long enough for the limo to lose us--a car load of teenage girls hyped up on that most dangerous of drugs: adolescent hormones.

It may just be the nostalgia talking, but I say: "Paul Young 2016!" If we're lucky, maybe Howard Jones will be his running mate4

Hey, we could definitely do worse.

1. Sarcasm may be one the baser forms of humor, but it's fun.
2. You know that tipping point when cursing goes from adorably brash to downright offensive? The only thing that gets me there faster than politics is prejudice.
3. Though I've wondered over the years what the specific violation would've been if he had.
4. If we start now, we'll have plenty of time to abolish that pesky natural-born citizen clause, right? With any luck, all the folks who pay attention to that sort of thing will still be grumbling about Obama's "long-form birth certificate."

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Ways I Am Not A Grown-Up, The First In A Potentially Infinite Series

Welcome to a new series here at Masked Mom in which I will enumerate the many ways, despite overwhelming chronological and cosmetic evidence to the contrary, that I am not a grown-up.

Way number one: I do not carry a purse. Or even a wallet. I did carry a wallet for ten or so years and I do often carry a tote bag* full of books, notebooks, etc, but I haven't carried a wallet for three years and a "real" purse for much longer.

Because of this, I carry any ID or whatever I might need in the back pocket of my jeans.

Because of this, when I am walking into a grocery store, I will touch the back pocket of my jeans to make sure my debit card is in there.

Because of this, I am always reassured when I can feel a rectangular plastic card in my back pocket.

Because of this, I have the extreme pleasure of engaging a little too often in conversations such as the one I had this afternoon:

Cashier: How are you today?

MM: I'm great. [Glancing down at the plastic card I'm about to swipe through the card reader.] I'd be a lot better if this was my debit card instead of my library card. I'm gonna have to run out to my van.

*This bag has been a variety of bags over the years and is currently a canvas tote bag decorated with pansies, which are my favorite flower. The bag was a gift years ago from Cranky Ex-Boss Lady. Whichever bag it's been, it's my transitional object. What it is not is a purse. I take it with me when I drive clients to out of town AA meetings and several of them have said, "Do you have any tissues in your bag?" Or "Do you have any lotion in your purse?" Um, nope. Sorry. Not a grown-up.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: This I Believe (Repost)

[Among the many things I believe, I believe that this is a repost of a review from December 4, 2006.]

The library is automated now--all fancy, shmancy and I can search from my bedroom while still in my pajamas for books and authors I'm trying to track down. Then I can go to the library, directly to the shelf they are on and pick them up and be in and out in a few minutes. (Or if the book is interloan, from another library, I can just walk to the desk and have it handed to me practically on a silver platter.) It's all very modern and convenient, but sometimes I miss the Library Accidents that used to happen while doing a card catalog search. I'd flip through the little cards looking for a specific book or author and stumble across an intriguing title. (I'm pretty sure this is how I ended up reading Saddles For Breakfast in fourth or fifth grade. I mean who could resist that title? And who knows how many other books I would never have had the pleasure of without the act of flipping through title after title in the catalog?)

I do keep lists of books I want to read--lists I compile by reading book reviews and taking recommendations, but I don't kid myself that every good book somehow magically makes it to my list. So, every once in a while, I set aside time for Library Accidents to happen and wander around the shelves and stop to look at the books on the new non-fiction tables just inside the library door and just wait for something to catch my eye. Suffering, as I do, from some sort of compulsive reading disorder, it never takes long.

This I Believe was one of those Accidental Books. It is full of essays from the NPR project of the same name, which was originally begun in the 1950s and was restarted in April 2005. Being from my media-deprived little corner of the world, I didn't know anything about the radio show (of course we don't have a local NPR station!) so the book was an eye-opener for me and led me down the rabbit hole of the website, where I've spent some time happily clicking from one essay to another.

The project asks participants to write short essays stating their core beliefs--the essays are a few hundred words in most cases and both the book and the site showcase a wide variety of people from well-known to unknown. What's amazing to me is how much true wisdom is out there in the minds of otherwise very ordinary people. I can't help but think that having a forum where people can discuss their personal philosophies can only be beneficial. It's also comforting to see essays from the 1950s reflecting some of the same issues we are facing now--it helps soothe that panicked feeling I sometimes get in thinking that things are dramatically worse at the moment than they've been in a while.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Extraordinary.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Spiral Notebook Sunday: Monday, January 17, 2005

Welcome to this week's Spiral Notebook Sunday, in which Masked Mom goes from philosophically observing the world to griping about Cranky Boss Lady* in four paragraphs flat.

Monday, January 17, 2005

I walked to work this morning, and on the way, I heard Dyke Creek slushing along--the thick water rubbing against itself and against the bank. Floating with the globs of slush were nine mallard ducks--five males, four females--who either forgot to fly south or were too tired to fly the whole way. They seemed utterly unconcerned with the temperature, the density of the water, the change in plans.

I also saw chickadees and starlings. The chickadees reminded me of the day a few years ago when Daughter-Only and I were walking to the bus stop and a male chickadee was perched at the edge of a newly built nest, calling "Fee-bee! Fee-bee!" and I said to Daughter-Only, "I think he's calling his mate." And she said, "Her name must be Phoebe!"

While contemplating the starlings gathered along the wires above North Broad Street, several of whom were this past year's babies, judging by their feathering, I also thought of Cranky Boss Lady and her vehement hatred of starlings. She calls them evil.

She also says crows are evil and coyotes and all manner of indoor rodents are also evil. We have debated this at length--my argument is that the concept of "evil," to me, implies intent to harm or cause damage or distress. Evil, therefore, is something animals are incapable of. This is so obviously logical as to be impossible for even Cranky Boss Lady to dispute, but she tries nevertheless.

The real reason Cranky Boss Lady's "evil" label bothers me is that she portrays herself as some sort of animal lover with a real concern for the state of the environment and so on. The truth is she loves certain animals--dogs, some cats (black ones, but she's indifferent to most others and "hates" orange ones), wolves (for their symbolic significance as much as any natural characteristic wolves themselves possess) and a random and ever-changing short list of other animals. The truth is her love of animals is exactly like every other emotion she has--ruled by what's in it for her.

By far the worst part of my morning walk was recognizing in my mental meanderings the extent to which Cranky Boss Lady has permeated every aspect of my life. Something really, really must be done...

*Cranky Boss Lady is now Cranky Ex-Boss Lady, but this entry was written about halfway through my ten-year tenure (heh) as the manager of the flower shop CBL owned. Cranky Ex-Boss Lady is still a fairly regular part of my life; we talk several times a week. I consider her a friend. I care a great deal about her, but I still don't like her very much, if that makes any sense. It should be noted that she is aware of this blog, is aware of her occasional presence on this blog and is even aware of her nickname on this blog.