Friday, May 02, 2008

Welcome to America. Now Show Me Some Papers

The bank's new building is slick and modern, at once open and strangely cavelike. I stepped under the lowered ceiling sheltering the counter, where the tellers sat in front of the soft blue glow of an LED illuminated backdrop. It looked eerily futuristic, and I halfway expected them to be dressed in the uniforms of the Starship Enterprise. Or to ask for my boarding pass and how many carry-ons I had with me.

I waited my turn, taking in the spacey modern decor, reflecting that no matter how progressive the surroundings become, the people still look pretty much the same, coming in with the same nondescript fashions, hairstyles, and often outdated and rigid ways of looking at the world.

As if in answer to my ruminations, I began eavesdropping on the customer just to the left of me. The teller was a lovely young woman, dark and beautiful, probably of Indian descent. The man wore the uniform of middle America--pleated khaki pants and a striped, somewhat rumpled button-down. He had that heavy-browed, dull look through the eyes so coveted by Hollywood producers looking to portray a certain Southern stereotype, but judging by his dress seemed to have evolved a bit beyond that unfortunate image. A bit.

"Whur you from?" he asked, in not a particularly friendly way. The girl, avoiding much eye contact, went about her business, making his deposit or whatever it was that he had plopped up on the counter with no discernible instructions or greeting, and mumbled something about whatever her heritage was. "You like Amurica?" he persisted, in a tone which to him might have seemed casual but at least to my ears came across as mildly confrontational. She responded with something about having been born here, and having lived in several of the United States as well as London and at least one other international location. Answering him, as she had from her first words to this man, in an obviously native English speaker's accent. Finally, apparently satisfied that this fellow U.S. born citizen passed his approval to remain in this country, he left.

I listened intently to this exchange, mortified for the girl. Here she was, just trying to do her job and be friendly, having to endure being interrogated by this hayseed cretin who, in addition to being incapable of using basic English grammar, apparently assumes that everyone of non-white descent just stepped off a plane or boat and furthermore, must give account to all the "real" Americans like himself. I couldn't help making the assumption myself that he was no doubt a faithful church member, and probably a Baptist. Unfair, but his behavior did not leave me feeling charitable.

Had the bank not been so busy, I might have gone over and apologized to the girl, said something to assure her that not every small-town Southerner gets ticked off and threatened every time they encounter someone different from themselves, that we're not all stuck in 1934 in our thinking. But the next customer stepped up, as did I. I left the bank pondering how nice it would be if we could remodel people's attitudes as easily as we can a bank building.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Plague on Both Our Houses

Let's just say things are much better around our house, as well as my sister's, after S., then A., then I., then yours truly, then J., and don't forget B., came down with the awfulest, nastiest virus we've seen in a while. Poor little S. even spent some time at the children's hospital. I'm still sanitizing every surface that won't be damaged by bleach or Lysol. . . and will update with something more interesting soon. . .

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How Crazy People Spend Valentine's Day

To anyone still under the delusion that I am a laid back person, I submit my cookies. It all started innocently enough: I saw a Woman's Day magazine in my sister-in-law's bathroom, borrowed it, and thus began the odyssey that would require borrowing a friend's cookie cutter, two trips to Harris Teeter (one for powdered egg whites, another for 10-inch skewers), one trip to Hobby Lobby for red paste food coloring, one evening making dough, one night for chilling it, one afternoon for rolling/cutting/ baking, followed finally by several hours mixing icing/tinting icing/putting icing in four separate pastry bags/thinning remaining icing/frosting cookies/waiting two hours for icing to dry/piping reserved icing. All this, mind you, while my 7 year old kept getting in the middle of everything, being helpful, and my not-quite-four year old kept bumping into me to watch what I was doing. Patient and determined? Yes, when it comes to this sort of thing and I'm in project mode. Laid back? Yeah, in a perfectionistic Martha Stewart kind of laid back way.
My hands, along with my patience for J. tottering on a stool at my elbow, finally gave out and I left the remaining cookies for CA and CR to finish. After all, they are for their teachers. Now, to supervise the addressing of three classes' worth of Hot Wheels, Justice League, Star Wars, and Barbie valentines before bed. . .Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

To see oursels as ithers see us

Lorri forwarded a link to the "Interactive Johari window," so anyone who knows me can choose up to six adjectives to describe me. Thank goodness you can only choose from the list! I've had a few responses so far, and I have to tell you guys, I'm a little wounded that only 42% of you put "intelligent" on the list. A. got 100%! What's even more surprising is how many chose "calm" and "patient." Are you guys SERIOUS? According to your choices, no one knows how uptight, high strung, and paranoid the real me can be! My evil plan must be working. . . Anyway, here's the LINK.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How not to cook a turkey

Ahh. We survived Thanksgiving. I managed to cook most of a Thanksgiving meal alone-- and clean the house single-handedly, while S. lay recuperating from a, er, procedure that required him to be pretty much flat on his back for a couple of days. I even managed to erect the Christmas tree and string it with colored lights, bubble lights, and two different kinds of garland so the family could trim it after the meal. In truth, it was the most pleasant and relaxed holiday we've had in years.

Two days later I cooked another turkey, this one a gift someone had passed to my sister, who in turn passed it to me. Now, I have never cooked a whole turkey, as we are a white-meat-eatin' bunch. I knew I had to remove the package of giblets, which is a nice euphemism for "blackened and horrifying internal organs that we took out but put back just in case someone other than your cat actually wants to CONSUME them" and though the wrapper said to remove the neck, it looked pretty well gone to me.

Four and a half hours later, I found it, in all its gristly goodness, inside the cavity which I had tentatively searched before cooking the bird. I guess it was waaay down in there. What an end for a turkey--not only will we kill, pluck, and dismember you, but we'll also stuff your excised body parts back inside you like some kind of mafia murder! I also realized I had cooked the entire thing upside down, which of course is a little embarrassing, though my mother in law assured me Emeril recommends this for juicier results.

After I got past the horror of bones falling out everywhere, weird fatty stuff, cartilage, and various other anatomical surprises, I managed to salvage a nice amount of white meat, which was what I was after in the first place. The legs, thighs, and wings went to family members who eat such things. The rest went to the cats, who were in turkey parts nirvana.

Possibly the only meat-preparation experience that even comes close is the year A. boiled the carcass in an attempt to make turkey broth. "Turkey Frame Soup," I recall, was the straightforward and unappetizing title of that one. I scrubbed my roaster pan with a silent vow to stick with turkey breasts in the future, and to beware of gifts that come with their necks stuffed inside them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank

It's happened. My little girl, all arms and legs, has stretched her way out of a size 6X and has entered the world of girls' size 7-14. A survey of her closet revealed she needs some dressy things for church and the upcoming holidays, so I thought--a couple new dresses. No big deal, right?

After searching numerous stores, I found a few cute dresses--but all in the little girls' (4-6X) department. The selections in the bigger girls' section were a discouraging variety of sparkly formal numbers that resembled prom dresses--pretty, but a little much for your average Sunday--and cut down versions of women's dresses. And of course, mini tramp-wear such as the one pictured above.

Now, if this Barbie-esque gown showed up in C.'s closet she'd probably faint with ecstasy, but that's not the point. She's SIX. Where are the sweet Peter Pan collars? The smocked bodices? The jumpers, petticoats, and trimmings that announce to the world that you are a little girl, not Britney Spears in training? Oh, yeah, they're over at Strasburg Children, at $100 and up a pop.

One would think that a size 7 girl and a size 14 girl would have very different fashion requirements. As I recall, when my mother and I were shopping for me in that department, lo those many years ago, the styles were slanted more toward the younger end so that by the time you were a size 14 you couldn't wait to graduate to the glamorous Junior section. Now, it seems, the opposite is true: Early teens can look like fully developed, sexually mature women, and the little girls can come along for the ride.

Just as it's silly and pathetic for women of a certain age to wear miniskirts, it's ridiculous for a flat-chested child to wear a dress that in its normal environment is designed to highlight the curves of a woman. Call me old fashioned, but certain styles--the first little heels, first spaghetti strap dress or sweetheart neckline--should be rites of passage as a girl grows, instead of her being encouraged to look sexy when she doesn't have a clear concept of what that even means. It's not cute. It's sad, and even scary.

My search continues. Several hours on Ebay yielded some promising options and a list of search terms of brand names that still manufacture girly-looking styles for girls (what a concept!) so I'll find something yet. If all else fails, there's always my sewing machine.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

back in the saddle. . . again

I remember my first 10 speed. I teetered precariously on the too-large frame; its giant wheels dwarfing my scrawny 12-year-old body. Its tape-wrapped, curving handlebars and silver shifting levers were my badge of maturity; status. My first bike had been a hand-me-down from a cousin, a 70's banana-seat variety with a gash in the vinyl that allowed in rainwater and would nicely soak your butt each time you sat down for days after. But this one--this gleaming blue Schwinn--was all my own, unstoried and unblemished. My best friend and I rode almost daily, meandering around the flat Midwestern landscape, lost in preadolescent twitters and fantasies.

Flash forward 25 years: It's time for my oldest son to earn his cycling badge for Cub Scouts, and they need adults to supervise a short ride at the park. Though my dear father has been talking lately of refurbishing the aforementioned Schwinn, now tattered and forlorn in his basement, I declined and made a trip to our local bike shop, and bought the lovely Trek Navigator 300 you behold above. Not only do the gears shift by a simple twist of the grip, but the chain doesn't fall off in the road and it has 24 speeds! My bike euphoria nearly obscures the fact that my rear end is throbbing and that all the nice old couples out for strolls with their precious little dogs appeared more than a little disgruntled at the sight of 5 adults and 9 third grade Cub Scouts zipping along the path at the park. One of them even sighed audibly as we passed.

I went ahead and had them install the removable baby seat and rack, and our next step will have to be a hitch and rack on the minivan. There is no escaping full blown mother of three-dom. But as I set out on my maiden voyage this morning, just for a moment, I was just myself, just me, with the hum of tires, the autumn sky, and a solitary country road.