Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tiny Tyrants all in a Row

I help out in my daughter Berzo's kindergarten class once a week.

Today, the kids harassed me the entire period to go out to recess afterward to push them on the swings.

The first recess I spent with her kindergarten class, Berzo and I went to the swings and I gave her a push. I offered a push to Berzo's two best friends too. Suddenly all the swings filled up and hung still (the ones that were already swinging stopped) as the rest of the class sang out, “Push me! Push me!” Ug. So I do. I push each kid in turn, as the ones not currently being pushed yell at me.

Berzo loses interest and wanders off with her friends. I finish up, wave goodbye to all the yelling kids and follow after Berzo . A flock of kindergarteners comes with me. Berzo isn’t amused. *sigh*

Soon recess is over and I walk Berzo back to her class. I give her a hug and tell her good-bye. All the other kinders crowd in for hugs too and their teacher tries not be annoyed by the distraction.

So I usually avoid going to recess.

Today, in a moment of desperation, I said I would go to recess if they were extra good for the teacher while I was there. They weren’t, but I went anyway because they are adorable little tyrants.

They all ran for the swings and hung there shouting at me to swing them. I faced each kid on their swing, pulled them towards me, and let them go.

Berzo says, “I don’t need a push because I know how to pump!”

She’s going pretty good by the time I get to her so I skip her by and swing the rest of the kids. I come back to Berzo and ask if she's sure she doesn't want one too.

She says, “OK...” (Like not really, I was doing good on my own, but whatever…)

So I catch her swing and pull her towards me to let her go. Her body weight was already shifting back and plop she falls right out onto her back and bottom. Essentially, I jerked her right out of her swing.  I let go of the swing and she’s lying flat, saying, “I’m OK. I’m OK." The swing passes right over her. Then she sits up and the swing clocks her on the back of the head. She’s still trying to keep it together as I scoop her up and take her over to the bench to sit down.

The rest of the dangling kinders kept yelling, “Swing me, Amy!”

Berzo said into my shirt, “Why did you have to swing me? I was rocking it on my own!”

Her back is all scratched up, her head is bonked, and worst of all she’s super embarrassed.

I did all that to her.

She is angry with me as she clings to me for comfort and uses me as a shield so no one can see her tears.

Soon her friends run over and check on her, she puts on a brave face. Then she gives me the what-for a couple more times. I give her a last hug and flee the playground.

Whatever they pay kindergarten teachers, it’s not enough. They are miracle workers. I’m with the class one hour, one day a week, and I leave with a headache. Every. Damn. Time.

Where’s the chocolate?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Lilacs and Mrs. Eleanor

 I love lilacs.

Really? Come on!
My fur-kid Adi and I take a walk every morning on pretty much the same route. On a corner, a tall lilac waves hello. I stop and take its flowery hand in mine and breathe in the lovely scent of the flowers. The perfume triggers a wormhole in the spacetime continuum to the spring and summers of the early eighties.

In those years we lived in the small town of Blue River.  It had a tiny grid of houses on gravel roads that nestled into the north and south sides of the main road.

Good morning.
In many ways, it was the best of all worlds. We had plenty of neighbors and had no trouble finding other kids to play with. We had a beautiful park that was bordered by the Blue River, which drained into the Mckenzie River. Since the Blue River was more of a creek, we could play in it without worry of being swept away, as we were taught would happen if we became complacent around the cold, swift Mckenzie. There were stores that would exchange our cans and bottles for candy money. There was a gas station, post office, liquor store, cafe, tavern, and a laundry mat. We even had a library.  It was established and run by Mrs. O’Brien, who welcomed us in and forgave us the books that got left in the rain.

It was all very cozy.

Bordering the town was wilderness to be explored. And we did. Every inch of it. We found every cave, climbed every hill, and rolled in every patch of poison oak.

“What’d you do—roll in it?”

"I dunno. Maybe."

One house down the road from ours had a tall fence dripping with lilacs. The fragrance greeted me whenever I cruised by on my bike.

Although I don’t remember how or when it started, my brothers, sister, and I would let ourselves in through the beflowered gate, pet the dog, knock on the door, and ask for food.

Seemed so natural at the time, and so odd looking back.

Through the gate was a secret garden of sorts. Flowers bloomed in tidy beds that bordered the bright green grass. The dog, Winnie, was short of hair, pudgy of body with skinny legs, and black with white tuxedo markings. He greeted us with licks and a wagging tail, paws dancing in the grass.

The lady who lived there was known to us as Mrs. Eleanor. To everyone else, she was Leanora Walp. She was the archetypical grandma. She was short and roundish and usually dressed in pastel colored polyester pants with a flowery top or knitted sweater. She had lively eyes behind her glasses, and a kind face topped with short, fluffy white hair.

She greeted us like we made her day.

Regina, Me, Johnnie Lee

“Hi Mrs. Eleanor!” We’d sing out in chorus.

After a bit of small talk, she would offer us something delicious. She had a large garden in her backyard and grew and canned her own food. She made the best pickles I’ve ever had. They were fat cucumbers with flowers of dill floating in the jar. She also made delicious fruit leather; thick strips of dried berries and apples that were both tart and sweet. We thanked her in turn and ran off with our goodies.

Someone should have warned her about feeding the wildlife because once that got going we knocked on her door all the time. Never once did she seem annoyed by the grubby little beggars at her door. Sometimes she invited us in. Once I remember touring her garden. Mostly we went as a group, but I remember knocking on her door solo too.

That witch from Hansel and Gretel was onto something… Luckily for us, Leanora was as kind as she seemed.

Looking back I can see her influence on my life. I like to ensure I have plenty of my family’s favorite food around and I also add things that I know my kids’ friends love. The girls and I make treats around the holidays to share them with friends and neighbors. We also bring around goodies from our garden. I specifically planted lemon cucumbers with Danielle’s friend in mind and raspberries for Gabi’s.

When I’m elderly, I hope that instead of a lawn I have a lovely secret garden with lilacs spilling over the fence. I hope I have a Winnie-dog. I hope I'll get surprise visits from my grandkids and their friends.

I’ll have to start working on my pickle recipe.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pondering Superpowers

I love to ponder the BIG questions.

I’m made of stardust. That guy huddled in the corner of the building with poop stains on his pants is too.

I’m connected through time in an unbroken line from the first life form that zinged into existence.

What are the odds that I'm sitting here, in this exact point in the spacetime continuum, wearing these clothes with these freckles on my nose?

Did bacteria cultivate "higher" life forms as mobile housing units?

How many times have the water molecules I’ve just sipped passed through another lifeform?

Do snakes creep themselves out too?

If I could choose a superpower what would it be?

Today, I ponder superpowers.

Why, invisibility of course—hands down. Or are they up? You don’t know because I’m invisible…muhuhahahaha...

Seriously, Amy? Not flying? Not ice, fire, super-strength, command of the Force, weather, shape-shifting, breathing underwater, speaking with animals?

Those powers would be awesome too. I could use the Force to keep my dog off the neighbor’s lawn. I could use my laser vision to vaporize her poop. I could shapeshift into a monkey to get my kid’s kite out of the tree. I’ve always wondered what a raven has to say. Flying—so awesome.

Invisibility wins it all though.

When I’m in the store in my scrubby clothes, carrying a basketful of tampons and chocolate bars, and I see the cute boy from high-school, all grown up with his lovely family. Boom-invisible.

Charley and I go to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. What's that odd flattening of the grass out in Center Field? Is it a micro-wind? Nope, that’s me rolling around. I’d probably watch the game perched on the dugout. Might sneak in the locker room right before game-time to hear Maddon giving the guys the game strategy.

At a concert, I’m on the stage rocking out! Am I naked? Maybe…

Long line for the Ladies' Room and the Men's Room is empty? Invisible.

Next time I go fishing in the ultra clear Mckenzie or Metolious? Invisible.

I’d get some amazing wildlife photography.

Step out of the shower and there’s no towel and all the windows are open. Invisible.

Shower at the campground. Invisible.

Changing from swimsuit to clothes at the swimming hole. Invisible.

Out for a run and see a creeper being creepy. Invisible.

Out on a long run and nature calls. Invisible.

All of high-school. Invisible.

Kids are playing together peacefully and don’t want to break the spell but need to cross the room. Invisible.

A pristine lake that begs to be skinny-dipped in that also happens to be surrounded by a packed campground. Invisible.

Think of the pranks and shenanigans invisibility would facilitate! No one would be safe! Muhuhahaha!

Ah! To be able to move through the world and this life in complete confidence and anonymity whenever I so choose. The things I could experience. The truths to discover. The fun to be had!

So yeah, invisibility wins it all.

Conversely, it would also be awesome to be able to dial up my visibility when I want to be noticed. I’m open for a shot on the basketball court—see me! I lose my kids in the store—see me! I spot an old friend across the field—see me! When my girls are on stage and they’re looking for me in the crowd—here I am! Pick me, ooh ooh, pick me!

Amy. Oh, hi. I didn't see you there…

What superpower would you choose?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hair Day - An Inside Look at My Outward Appearance

On my way home from a doctor appointment, I sailed through light traffic. I had no other obligations and plenty of time before my girls get off the school bus, so I took an early exit and decided to see if I could get my eyebrows done and my hair cut. It had been about six months since my last haircut and I was looking shaggy. Charley and I have a fancy dinner next weekend, and it would be nice to be less shaggy.

But I don’t wanna.

I gave myself a pep-talk, “I’ll just pop in, and if there's no wait time then I’ll just do it. Get it done. If there’s a wait, then I’m off the hook.”

OK. I can do this.

I go in and the stylist is elbows deep in a young woman’s long hair applying something thick and noxious.

Yes! Colorings take forever, she won’t be able to help me.

She greeted me and called for reinforcements. A woman with long brown hair, about my age, emerged from a secret door in the back somewhere and asked me what I wanted to have done.


“A brow wax and cut please—if you have time.”

“I’m booked up all day, but I can fit you in right now.”

Ug. Perfect timing. 

I sat in a chair she indicated and she played with my overgrown locks while I scrunched my reflection's face. She asked me what I’d like. I’ve always handled that question poorly. I’ve always wanted the stylist to say, "I know exactly what you need." And just do that. I don’t care. Like really. I don’t even know what style looks best on a 39-year-old woman with an oversized forehead. So as usual, I loft a few half-sentences out there, “A trim? Maybe long layers? A bob cut?” If you were reading a list of peeves as written by a stylist, I’m sure my response would top the list.

I don’t know, just make me look better than I do now. I’m not a fashionable person. You are. Save me from myself.

We settled on a trim.

We headed over to the washing station and I put my neck in the guillotine lunette and she prepped to wash my hair. The same hair I washed three hours ago in the shower.

“Will you have time to do my brows today too?”

“Oh, yes. Maybe I should do that first.”

“Oh, good idea.” For some reason, they always go for the hair first and then back to the sink afterward for the brows. It's faster if they do it when I'm already there. Fast = good.

The stylist was not chatty, and my thoughts turned inward.

I’ve always resented being groomed.

Thanks Karla. ♥
I like having been groomed, but I have resisted the process for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I was usually allowed to run feral, but on school days, and for church and holidays, grooming was inflicted upon me by my step-mom, Karla. In my elementary school years, my step-sister and I sat on chairs in the kitchen. Karla would then lift our hair from behind the chair and set to work. My hair was very long and fine and she brushed it with snarls that matched those in my hair, all the while cursing my rubber neck. Then Karla parted my hair down the middle and put it in pig-tails. The kind that the boys in line behind me would use as horse reigns and snap them with a, "Hyah!" On fancy days, she tied in ribbons.

I endured it all in stoic silence. At least that’s how I remember it. Today I’m certain I was as whiny, loud, and obnoxious about the procedure as my girls are when I brush their hair. Must be a Karmic circle thing. I know I’m just as snarly as Karla was about it. I ask them daily, in all earnestness, "Can we just cut it off?"

Looking back, I'm eternally grateful for Karla’s ministrations. My social position in school was precarious enough as a gingery mouth-breather. I didn't need all that topped off with chronic bedhead.

The stylist's breath is heavy on my face as she applies warm wax. She presses on a small cloth strip.

Brrrring! Brrring!

“I’ll be right back.”

She talks on the phone and flips through the appointment book. I lie on my lunette, experimentally raising my eyebrows to watch the shadow of the cloth strip flash up and down.


Now we’re cooking.

Warm wax, strip, zip. Examine. Adjust. Repeat. Tweeze. Tweeze some more. Breathe in my face. Ignore her tummy rumble. Zip. Tweeze. Done. Whew.

The stylist hands me a mirror. Ah yes, much better. My wild Scottish eyebrows have been tamed.

During my awkward teen years, one of my dad's girlfriends once told me, “Amy, one of these days I’m going to pin you down and pluck your eyebrows.”

I was mystified. Was something wrong with my eyebrows? Had she asked me before and I refused?

I was interested in ways of looking less awkward. Had she showed me what a difference it would have made in my overall appearance, I would have gone willingly—no pinning required.

Still in the guillotine lunette, next came the hair washing... Soap and scrub. More soap. More scrubbing. Like a lot of scrubbing. More scrubbing. I begin to wonder if my scalp is bloody.


Process repeat for the conditioner.


Some kind of leave-in conditioner is applied

The toweling is as vigorous as the scrubbing and pulled hairs send zings down my nerve pathways: a ping into my shoulder, a ping into mid-back. Nerves are weird.

As a youngster, we had to take baths two kids at a time. There were four of us (me, my brother, Reed; step-brother, Lew; and step-sister, Regina) and if we wanted to be finished with the baths before Rapture, some sharing was necessary. Bathtime was playtime of course, but at some unspoken point, it became a race to the finish. There were always two towels available; one being more desirable than the other. The challenge was to transition from play to washing without tipping off my bathmate. I had to be cool, smooth, unhurried, then boom! "Huh, guess I’m all done. Oh look, I think I’ll use this towel."

I rarely succeeded, and if skipping a step was necessary to win, I was ratted out, “Amy didn’t use soooap!”

“The point of taking a bath is getting clean. Get back in there and wash!...with soap!”

No honor among thieves—or kids.

Smaller towels were better for wrapping your hair anyway… And we girls always did. We turned ourselves upside down, laid the towel over the nape of our necks and with a wrap, twist, flip, the wet-hair turban was applied.

The stylist moved me and my wet be-towelled head back to the hair cutting chair facing a mirror.

As she squeezed the stray molecules of water from my hair, I felt a surge of gratitude that she wasn’t chatty. I’m fairly quiet, so chatty stylists will fill the vacuum with endless stories, anecdotes; oftentimes incredibly personal stuff. They will sometimes get so involved in their stories, they’ll stop working altogether for the benefit of gesticulating or pacing around as they speak.

The combing done, she twisted some of my hair up and fixed it with a clip. She combed some of it straight and began to cut. Yay! She is exceptionally nice. She is meticulous as well. Hair is important to women...well, not all women. Once I went to a barber shop thinking, barber shops are for guys so they’ll be fast. Nope, it was worse, the woman who helped me did a great job on my hair but was super chatty. My kids were taller by the time I got home. I once tried to convince Charley to trim my hair. He wouldn’t do it.

My permed chick-mullet.  You should
have seen me first thing in the morning.
Karla cut our hair for us at home and did a really nice job. She was fast. She was not chatty. Then years later my dad traded services with a woman, Leilani, who worked at the local hair shop. He’d take her brothers on a drift boat trip down the river, she’d cut me and my brother’s hair. She never asked me what I wanted, she just took the modern style and applied it to me. I had perms. (They never lasted over a week.) I had a chick-mullet. I had a permed-chick-mullet.

In my uber self-conscious teen years, I decided that I no longer wanted stylish hair, I wanted long hair and bangs. They blended in better with the wood paneling at my high-school. So, I stopped going to Leilani, and instead, I went to the mall SuperCuts 50 miles away “in town” for trims and a little shaping once or twice a year…

Sometimes my bestie and I would just trim each other's hair.

The hairstyle that I wore throughout high school.
I call it wood panel camouflage cut.
My stylist was done cutting and handed me a mirror. I pretended to look it over carefully as she swiveled the chair around. We are both happy. I’m ready to bolt out of my seat for the door.

Then she pulls out the blow dryer. I open my mouth to protest, but then I think, ah what the heck, I’ve been here this long, a quick blow-dry and my hair will be nice and sleek all day.

I should have protested. She dried my hair layer by layer by layer.

Maybe I just need one of these.
The blow-drying still going on, I can’t help but keep watching the clock and thinking of all the other ways I wish I was spending this precious kids-at-school time.

The dryer clicked off. Done. Finally!

Then some pomade. Mmmm smells nice. I have to “hold still” for another few moments while she gets some Freeze hairspray. I get sprayed. My hair feels plasticky.

Done. HOOORRRAY! I pop out of my seat at little too fast and hand her my apron and thank her. I really do look better. 

She rings me up and I’m so grateful to be free (and I feel slightly guilty for my internal ranting), so I add a generous tip to my bill. She says, "Thanks. I really appreciate that."

I said, “You’re welcome.” and internally added, And I’m so glad to be out of here

Less shaggy, right?
I close the door to my pickup and shake the hairspray bonds free and my hair feels silky and sleek.

I go about my day. The kids get home. Charley gets home. I go for a run. We have dinner. Charley and I exchange days, I tell him about my doctor appointment and mention that I got my hair cut.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t even notice.”

Charley looks genuinely abashed.

“That’s OK. It’s no big deal.”

Hugging Uncle John wearing Karla's pigtails.