Monday, November 28, 2005


I have just begun reading Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis. In a chapter on the cursing psalms, I ran across the following passage:

“It seemed to me that, seeing in them hatred undisguised, I saw also the natural result of injuring a human being. . . . Just as the natural result of throwing a lighted match into a pile of shavings is to produce a fire—though damp or the intervention of some more sensible person may prevent it—so the natural result of cheating a man, or “keeping him down” or neglecting him, is to arouse resentment; that is, to impose upon him the temptation of becoming what the Psalmists were when they wrote the vindictive passages.  He may succeed in resisting the temptation; or he may not. If he fails, if he dies spiritually because of his hatred for me, how do I, who provoked that hatred, stand? For in addition to the original injury I have done him a far worse one. I have introduced into his inner life, at best a new temptation, at worst a besetting sin. If that sin utterly corrupts him, I have in a sense debauched or seduced him. I was the tempter.”

My first thoughts were about how this is acted out on the world stage.  We are quick to condemn violent protest—we emphasize free will, and by golly, no one has to shoot a gun, throw a bomb, burn down the neighborhood, and so on.  To counter with talk about environment or policies that create a repressive environment will get you labeled a terrorist-loving antipatriotic bleeding heart liberal.  I like the way Lewis puts it. “If he dies spiritually because of his hatred for me, how do I, who provoked that hatred, stand?”  

And then it is played out in human relationships every day, between husbands and wives, parents and children, coworkers, neighbors.

Friday, November 25, 2005

After the feast

Oh, I am feeling so lazy, so wonderfully content. Thanksgiving was low-key, private, quiet. Perfect. The only glitch was that Three-year-old had a cold, which is why we didn't go visit my dad in Alabama. She was a preemie--born at 28 weeks--and her lungs have long been a concern. Last year she went through three bouts of pneumonia and was hospitalized twice. So a stubborn knot of fear forms in my gut when I hear the first cough. My dad just kicked a difficult respiratory infection. So, we stayed home, and gradually the fevers and listlessness gave way to a runny nose and impishness.

I turned on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which I grew up watching every year. Oddly enough, when I actually lived in New York, I never once went. Dear Husband made the Thanksgiving meal. A good thing, too, since my culinary talents are limited to simple baking. He made a fabulous turkey, and I made a carrot ring. When he realized that we had none of the jelled cranberry sauce without which it isn't Thanksgiving, he went to the store and got some for me. Now that's devotion. And he knew better than to try to make one of those fancy fresh cranberry relishes. Uh uh. It has to slurp out of the can. My mom used to do this perfectly, and then serve it in slices. Sigh. For desert we had marshmallows dipped in chocolate. The meal was delicious. Afterwards we all watched The Polar Express (this turned out to be a bit scarier than I expected, given the simplicity of the book, and Five-year-old ended up sleeping on the living room sofa with a light on).

Today, Friday, we put up our Christmas tree. The girls were so excited to look through the ornaments. Five-year-old kept saying, "Oh, do you remember this one?" I remember doing the same thing as a child. Rediscovering the Christmas ornaments was an important ritual, and I can still recall many of them, particularly a set of elves and other characters made with tiny pinecones and pipecleaners. So we found the star Five-year-old made out of popsicle sticks, and the fantastic chandelier ornament Dear Husband found for me, the Noah's ark ornament, and the Bratz ornament (groan).

Later, Dear Husband took healthy Five-year-old out for the evening, and I spent a lovely time romping with Three-year-old. We built cities with blocks, and played with her toy cars, which she likes to stuff in her pockets or her baby doll diaper bag. We cooked pretend food and pretended to be doggies and kitties. Then I tickled her and we rolled around on the floor and giggled a lot. I was overcome by a sense of her "otherness." Because she has some developmental delays, and language has been slow in coming, I've thought of her as a baby for much longer than she has been one. She may not yet have the words for all her questions and frustrations and wonderment, but I think she has the thoughts for them, and I was struck tonight by how much older she is than I think of her.

All of this I have to be thankful for, and more: I am experiencing something that has seemed out of reach--peace, contentment, joy. I feel like a cat in a sunny window.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday Five

1) Earliest book you remember (read to you or by you).  I had a favorite story. It was called “Nanette Visits the Chateau,” and it was in an old Childcraft book that had been passed down to me. I adored this story, which was slightly spooky. A young girl visits her friend, a housekeeper at the chateau, for a tour. But the housekeeper can’t go, and Nanette wanders around the mansion on her own, having been sternly warned to touch nothing. But of course she does touch something: the cupids on the wallpaper in the master bedroom (hmm—anything Freudian about that?), and discovers a creepy room, gets trapped, discovers a dungeon, finally gets out, and never tells anyone about her adventure. I made my mom read this story over and over.  I still have the book, thank goodness, because it seems impossible to find the story otherwise.

2) Picture Book you would like to climb into. When I was a kid, I would gladly have crawled into a Dick and Jane book.  I was growing up in the 70s, but those books were still in the public elementary school I went to. Their world looked so peaceful and orderly, and they had each other for company (my brothers were so old they had already moved out). And they had sidewalks! And neighborhoods! I lived in a post WWII suburb that never really developed— acouple of stumpy streets with no sidewalks, a loooong way from the city such as it was but not rural either.  I recently picked up a Dick and Jane collection at the library.  Horrible for reading, but those pictures still look so squeaky clean.

3) Favorite series of books (then or now). Harry Potter, hands down. When I was a kid, I adored the Little House on the Prairie books, as well as Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew. There’s a new series about Sherlock Holmes by Laurie King that’s really good, too (her blog is in my links).

4) Character you would most like to meet.  Sherlock Holmes. I used to imagine myself into those adventures. I like stories set in the Victorian era.

5) Last childhood book you re-read (for yourself or to someone). Oh, probably one of the many Dr. Seuss books I have from my childhood.  I think Five-year-old may soon be ready for Nanette, though.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Through a window

Our little girls, peeking through the window of a sculpture at the High Museum.

Monday, November 14, 2005

At the art museum

This weekend we took the girls on an outing to the High Museum, which was having a grand opening for its new wing, so admission was free and there were all sorts of events.  We took MARTA, which our youngest was very excited about. She loves trains, and this was just as good as a train to her. The museum was so changed I barely recognized it (well, it has been 20 years). It still smelled of paint. There were some activities for children, so we got to watch the girls make angels. Five-year-old’s actually looks like an angel, with the wings in correct position. Three-year-old’s looks like a Picasso angel, with a wing smack in the middle of her stomach, random slashes of color, and a lot of glue. Yes, a lot of white, sloppy, drippy glue.  We then took in a little jazz, which scared Three-year-old for some reason, and she clung tightly to me and refused to join the other dancing children. This is the same child who, when I attempt to sing, puts her small hand over my mouth and says, “STOP!”

We then refueled the girls with Sprite, which seemed to infuse them with sprites, all right. We went blundering about in the general direction of the children’s exhibits but somehow ended up in contemporary arts. Five-year-old loved these paintings and sculptures, and we had to be careful not to miss any, because she would belt out, “Hey, we didn’t see this one. You’re missing stuff!” She was very impressed with a Howard Finster bicycle and the Frank Lloyd Wright furniture. Three-year-old liked being around Five-year-old, but spent a lot of time spinning around while holding onto my little finger. When she got dizzy she would fall down on her bottom and laugh. I’m not sure she thought much about the art, but she pointed out babies to me, because she love babies. Five-year-old sometimes got a bit too wild and ran around the wide gallery spaces in circles, alarming the security guards. We kept having to remind her not to touch anything, which was a bit difficult WHEN SOME ADULTS WERE TOUCHING THE ART. In New York if you got within a foot of a painting at the Met, a guard started inching toward you; any closer and the voice of doom intervened. We never did find the children’s exhibits, which I gather were in the basement.

We ended up with a family membership and the pleasure of hearing Five-year-old say, emphatically, “That was fun!”  

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Gord's 5 Meme

10 years ago: Had just moved to Phoenix, AZ, with my first husband, The Academic, and started a job with a small publisher at ASU.

5 years ago: Had just married my second husband, Dear Husband, and was preparing for the birth of Child 1 (probably very ill with morning sickness around now).

1 year ago: Had moved to Georgia in the spring. Husband diagnosed with weird, chronic illness and had to downgrade job. We were struggling financially and it looked scary going into the Christmas season.

5 yummy things

  1. Crème brulee / flan / anything custardy
  2. Pecan pie
  3. Pizza
  4. Thai food

5 songs I know by heart

  1. The Wheels on the Bus
  2. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  3. I Gave My Love a Cherry
  4. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
  5. Jingle Bells

5 things I would do with a lot of money

  1. Pay off my student loan
  2. Buy a house
  3. Give to Oxfam
  4. Enroll the kids in a bunch of classe
  5. Travel

5 things I would never wear

  1. A mumu
  2. A bikini
  3. A facelift
  4. Frosted highlights
  5. Gingham

5 favourite tv shows

  1. House MD
  2. Monk
  3. CSI: Miami
  4. Without a Trace
  5. Naturally, Sadie (yeah, I know it’s a kid’s show, but I like her)

5 things I enjoy doing

  1. Reading
  2. Taking the girls to the library
  3. Dates with Dear Husband (so rare, unfortunately)
  4. Sleeping
  5. Sleeping some more

Friday, November 04, 2005

Jane Austin, Action Hero

Is everyone familiar with Archie McPhee, purveyor of novelties? I’m sure their plastic geegaws have populated many a cubicle. I decided to check them out after spotting a link at Mona's blog. I found an exciting array of items. The Jane Austin and Obsessive Compulsive action figures were among my favorites, but I think the prize goes to the Avenging Unicorn Playset, with interchangeable horns. Check it out.

They also have a wonderful selection of “bleak wristbands.” And don’t neglect to check out their Weirdest Products, which include a Pig Acupuncture Model and Wind-up Hopping Lederhosen.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


As many of you know, a Very Bad Presence (VBP) has been commenting willy nilly on Lorna’s blog, as well as briefly on my husband’s blog. I think that Will Smama nailed it when she said that his comments remind her of mental patients she’s had dealings with.

This got me to thinking. It’s infuriating to encounter a disordered and delusional mind. There’s no way in. There seems to be no hope of change, transformation, anything. We get sucked in, trying desperately to make contact, to bring order to chaos, reason to unreason. It makes us angry, it makes us feel sick, it makes us a bit scared.

My mother was mentally ill. No one told me this. I did not have the name for her illness until I was twenty-one, and even now we aren’t entirely sure if the diagnosis was correct or misguided. I grew up in a strange world. At times my mom’s behavior was bizarre, but I had no option but to consider it normal and accept that at certain times reality could shift, bend, and stretch. During my childhood, hers was a quiet illness. My brothers got to witness the more extreme displays—visits to FBI offices, a fire, conversations with inanimate objects—and they had to deal with Mom being sent to the mental institute a few times, something that she sometimes alluded to with great fear.

My mom heard voices. While I was growing up, she seemed to hear only nice voices. She talked to three doctors. Sometimes she would describe these conversations (she never talked out loud to them or saw them), which were very encouraging and loving. One wanted to marry her. Mom was also convinced that she was a part of a though experiment being carried on by the Russians and the CIA. Her thoughts were being constantly monitored.  Mom cycled between highs, whcn she started huge projects or dragged us off unwillingly to various events, and lows, which lasted far longer than the highs, when she complained about not being able to do anything and was generally listless, even vacant. Our house was usually a mess, because she never had the energy to clean, and she had even less idea of how to organize or prioritize.

Mom was extremely shy and unsure of herself. Social situations could set her off on a downward spiral. She was convinced that everyone judged her badly, that everyone talked about her. She would create awkward situations, like the time I was 6 and she told me that my friend D was trying to steal my friend P. I stalked over to D’s house to tell him off and his mother overheard, yelled at me and called my mom. I returned home mortified, only to hear my mom ranting at D’s mom about the conspiracy afoot to discredit her and her children. That was the first time I realized that I could not trust my mother’s judgment.

Mom nagged at my dad pretty constantly.  She made fun of the way he ate, sneered at his habits, his hygiene, and his hobbies. They argued loudly and viciously. He threatened to have her locked up; she—well—she cycled through whatever strange accusations and narratives that came to mind. They stayed married for over 50 years, until the day she died.

Mom doted on me. I was the only girl after four boys, the child born after she thought she was past child bearing, after a miscarriage. She loved all her children without bounds, but I was at home still and the focus of her dreams and fears. She wanted me for her own, and it was obvious that she found my dad a threat to that exclusivity. She would insist on hearing any conversation I had with him—telephone calls drove her mad if she could not pick up on the extension, and she usually badgered my dad until he relinquished the call to her.

Mom was incredibly bright. She never went to college, and I never saw her read much when I was growing up, but she made sure I had books and lots of them. When I was older, in college and later, she would sometimes call and talk about the books she was reading: The Varieties of Religious Experience, a book on the Jeffersonian Bible, Saint Augustine’s Confessions. The most wonderful tribute to her were the words from her pastor at her funeral: “She used to box me into a corner with her questions!” a sentiment that was echoed by the genteel women from her Bible study group.

As she aged, her mind seemed to clear. She and my dad got along almost companionably. He built a house for her, with a sunroom where she could study and listen to her favorite music. When she found out she had leukemia, she decided to fight, even in her late 70s, because of my oldest daughter, then just over a year old, and she went through a round of chemo that turned her eyes to pools of blood. I remember when they told her there was no hope. “I don’t think I’m ready for this,” she said, with a nervous laugh. But she was.

I miss her.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Little Fun

The server is down at work, and I’m stymied. Everyone is, because everything is on the network.

So, let me just say what a delightful few days we’ve had. First, we’ve had some good news from Jeff’s urologist, who does not think we need to rush into surgery. More about that on his blog, Still Jewish. Then I had such fun with the girls over the weekend. Our Saturday routine is for me to take Five-year-old to Drama (oh, yes, this is perfect for her) and go with Three-year-old to the library next door to the school. And on this day my drama queen got to dress up in her Halloween costume as a rock star, and so did little sister, who headed off to the library in butterfly wings.

I love libraries in the first place, and libraries on Saturday mornings are very peaceful. At least until we get there. Three-year-old has not learned to modulate her voice very well when she’s excited, and there’s so much to be excited about in the three-year-old world, like drinking fountains and the book return. She picked out three books on gorillas. I don’t know why she has a sudden interest in gorillas, but I’m happy to encourage the slightest interest in any thing science-y. Thankfully, the library has avoided stocking a bunch of Disney princess and Barbie books. I found the most beautifully illustrated Rapunzel book by a Paul Zelinsky. Gorgeous pictures modeled on Renaissance paintings.

After drama class, I took the girls to a trick or treat event in one of the local parks. Free food, a trick-or-treat trail through the woods, and gorgeous weather—what could be better? And of course, lots of cute kids in costumes, including a baby dressed as a lobster.

Sunday afternoon we all went to another park so that Five-year-old could ride her scooter, which she is rapidly outgrowing. Of course there was some squabbling over the scooter, but as usual they managed to work out terms for sharing. Another beautiful day, concluded with ice-cream. Sigh.

Trick-or-treat was great fun. By this time Five-year-old had so much glitter embedded in her hair that she should sparkle for a few years. Three-year-old didn’t want anything to do with her costume and was terrified of the decorations at the first stop, and I had to carry her for pretty much the entire trek. Dear Hubby wanted to carry her but she was concerned: “Daddy hurt!” She did perk up enough to hold out her pumpkin for her treats, of course. The amazing thing is that each was content with one piece of candy before bed.

Ah, the server is up again, just in time for lunch—whee!