Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I go walking regularly in a park near my home. In the past I have spotted some magnificent hawks ghosting across the grass in search of ground squirrels (or possibly people's cats). At one time I counted five large hawks sitting up on the ballpark lights like gargoyles.

Recently, there haven't been many around. I blame the searing heat. It's hot enough to smelt iron on the sidewalks there. In fact, if I were one of those hawks, I'd hang out in the bathroom where it's cool and there's water.

The day before yesterday I was slouching along in the outdoor "sauna" trying to lose a ton or two of ugly weight. I hugged the trees fringing the park since they offer a degree of blessed coolth not otherwise afforded by my usual path. As I was passing a wooded portion, I heard a rustling.

There in the brush was a pair of tiny hawks about the size of those game hens you find in the grocery store. They were such pretty little birds with their brown cloaks, mottled tan tunics, banded tails, and white caps.

I stood entranced for some time, hoping they'd come out to see me. One of them did fly up to the tree overhead, showing me the bands on its tail feathers. He sat up there and screeched at me, hoping, possibly, to lure me away from the other. Clearly they were young and just trying out their flight muscles. I wondered if perhaps I might have been the cause of a maiden flight.

I wouldn't have continued on, but I was edging towards heat stroke by that time. The hawks would have to proceed without me.

Today I went looking for them again. My first circuit around the park was fruitless. I was chagrined to think that they might have flown away. However, on my second circuit, as I was exploring the brush near where I'd seen the Coopers before, I felt something hit my cap.

I first looked down at the little piece of bark (glad it wasn't a dropping since I like this cap); then I looked up. It was as if they'd tossed the curl of wood to tell me, "Hey, look up, dolt!"

There they were!

My Coopers had learned to fly and were resting in state in the pine above my head. I chirped at them, hoping they'd come down and visit, but they were much too intelligent for that. I even tried to leave them a slosh or two of my water, but it leached into the blacktop before any of them could get the guts to come down and drink it.

I think by the time I get back to them, my Cooper's Hawks will have flown. I'm so thankful to have gotten to see them up close and share a sharp glance or two.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bacon Bikinis

What the schmoo is up with bacon these days? Everything is bacon, bacon, bacon. If I were a pig, I'd be absolutely pooping in my pen about now. Every time I turn around (maybe I should stop turning around since bad things happen when I do: kids grow up, another bill is overdue, more things go wrong with the car...you know the drill) there is yet another strange bacon-enhanced (?) food on the market.

Bacon chocolate bars? Really? Bacon on ice cream? Strange. Bacon jam? WHAT?

I'm not saying I don't like a crispy strip of deliciousness once in a blue moon. I do. But I'm also interested in not becoming one of those blimp balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. I've seen what those things do when they run into buildings and it isn't pretty.

I suppose the drive to over-gorge upon the flayed-from-the-hog flesh, the same impulse that causes us to take up wretched habits like nose-picking or smoking or licking the jam from between our toes. It is, however, our choice to do so. Luckily it's still legal. I applaud the ability, however unwise, to choose swine over rice cakes. I just wonder why it is we have such a dichotomy in this country.

On one hand we have the drive to force people to drop their superkeg of soda down the next manhole, while on the other hand there are those touting the bacon sun dress. What happened to a couple of slices of crispy bacon at the side of a plate of sunny side ups, a piece of toast, and a glass of O.J.?

Next thing you know they'll come out with bacon bikinis and we chubby piggies will be utterly and doubly doomed.

What? Lady Ga-Ga already did it? ROT!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You Had Your Time

Photo taken from brickellreporter.com

When I was growing up, I lived vicariously through my parents. They got to go out on dates, go to young married dinners and dances and all kinds of events and get-togethers on a regular basis. They had a healthy social life.

To every query about why I couldn't attend, Mom would always say, "Just wait until you're a young married! It'll be so fun." Then she and Dad would trot off to another young married pot luck or fancy ball or hootenanny. They've been to well over half of the world's countries. They've got friends in Bulgaria and Indonesia and Germany and half a dozen other places.

I did so much dancing growing up that in college I never needed a P.E. class. I was on toe in ballet. I was in a troupe for folk dance in high school. There were dance festivals and road shows and youth conferences and camps and dances out the wazoo.

Then about the second I got married, almost all of that dried up. There were no young married soirées. The dances withered away to one a year on Valentines Day and then to nothing. To dance at all we have to go chaperon our children's dances or sit at home with the TV. I feel like it's one huge bait-and-switch. Suddenly doing something fun was anathema if you weren't a teenager and looking for someone to be your future spouse. And if you had landed the colossal catch of the day, you didn't need any social life anymore.

Although if you lose your spouse for some reason, the fun starts back up again. What the heck?

Never mind that we're supposed to be witty and captivating at the end of the day when the Hubs comes home. We have to compete now with video and computer games, sports, hobbies, friends, computer and TV. And we have to do it all on the strength of one three-letter word, apparently. That's the be-all and end-all of marital glue. So if your life in that area is less then stellar, you're in for a rocky road.

What really got me thinking about this was a remark made to me the other day (not the first of its kind by any means). This person said, "We had our time. Now it's their time." So now I'm thinking, wait a minute. I don't remember any manual anywhere that said married adults are hereby banned from fun activities. What happens to the rest of a person's life? Am I just a selfish, self-absorbed sinner for not wanting to cash in all my "fun" chips and go sit on the sidelines next to the wallflower wall? Because believe me, I OWN that wall. That's where I spent all my growing up years.

Now I finally have a partner for dances and dinners and all kinds of other fun activities and suddenly I'm not supposed to do any of that anymore? Where is that written? We have to give up our "fun" card when we climb into that white dress? What happened to getting good exercise? What happened to finding something in common to do with your spouse that isn't necessarily "evil" TV or video games? What the heck are we supposed to do?

This is my thought. We have one life on this earth. There are no do-overs. If you stop reaching, striving, doing crazy things, going places, learning new cultures and moving, you calcify. You have nothing to talk about. You get closed into a tiny space and you line up to have your wings clipped. The thought of that wing-clipping line makes my heart shrivel.

If you have nothing much in common with your spouse, there is about a 50-50 chance you won't stay together. Certainly after your children are gone, that percentage gets steeper. Where is it written that when you have kids, your only role is taxi driver or maid?

Don't get me wrong. I'm definitely not advocating throwing your children off a bridge somewhere or letting them be raised by wolves. I'm not advocating you eating all the pie as your poor starving children stare at you with huge hungry eyes. I'm not advocating going hog wild and spending your children's inheritance gambling in Las Vegas every weekend.

What I do advocate is that a wife needs her husband to treat her like the queen of his castle. He needs to sometimes be her White Knight. Sometimes there are dragons to battle and at times those green beasties are your own offspring. Yeah. That's what I said. Your own kids can be the dragon. Sometimes you allow them to scrunch between you until they're running your whole life and edging you and your spouse apart little by little and you're left holding the spatula, wondering why you feel like a beaten down old hag.

Part of the problem with marriages going sour these days is the neglect of NEEDS. We're selfish if we pay too much attention to those needs of ours, but we wither up and blow away if we don't. Who takes care of our needs if we don't? What if Hubs either doesn't care about them or doesn't want to spend the time exploring those needs? After all, it's an emotion-fraught girly thing.

How big should the "Wife" room be in her husband's head? Are we seriously supposed to forget all our own needs (the need for love, for respect, for validation, for understanding) and simply work on our children's needs? If you try to address the "needs" thing, he tells you you aren't paying enough attention to the kids (comment deleted to keep the peace) and that feels like you've been hit in the head with a fly baseball.

What about our spouse's needs? Who is supposed to take care of those if we're just supposed to concentrate on the kids?

Do you see the fallacy in that sort of thinking? I do. At least I think I do. Maybe it's my wretched selfish self whining like a baby about growing up. Maybe. I'm still trying to figure it all out.

In my opinion we're being groomed by society in general to be less and less involved in our spouse's life. The media has waged a full-on war against the "healthy" family and the "healthy" marital relationship. I can count the number of good family examples in the media on one hand. In fact, I can't think of any right now. Father's roles are under attack from every direction. What's a guy to do when he's looking for role models in being a decent husband and man?

It's the same for women. We're being groomed to go for the "bad boy", the guy who is too macho to dance or cry or change diapers. All we know is the guy can shoot people while doing back-flips, has a ripped body and can satisfy in the sheets.

"You had your time."

Photo taken from openhand.org
No. I disagree. This whole life is to be grasped and squeezed like a handful of grapes. Every drop of the sweet juice is to savor, even when you're 95 and have to wear Depends and do your dancing with a walker. I want to go climbing for my birthday. I want to travel to the places I haven't gone yet and eat tentacles and snails and maybe even dog. I want to be dancing when my hair is snow white. I want to ride log rides when my teeth are threatening to fly out on the way down. I want to ride horses down the beach and explore undersea caves. And I'd like to do all of that with my loving spouse.

I don't want to go back to that wallflower wall and only live vicariously through my children. (disclaimer: I already do LOADS of living through my children. Every year I go to well over sixteen of their concerts. I've watched their choir performances, rejoiced at their National Honor Society inductions and clapped in their plays and dance performances. I've watched their road shows and skits by the dozens. I've been to their track meets and timed their swimming meets.)

Photo from della4adventure.blogspot.com
I don't want to sit at home and watch the stupid ball drop on New Years Eve because "I had my time and now it's theirs." I want my children to be able to say, "My parents are so wacky. Right now they're rappelling into a sunote (sp?) in Mexico." I want to dance off the tonnage I accrue writing. I want to learn things until the day I die. I have art competitions to win. I have books to write and sign--maybe even a movie to make. I want to go on a foreign mission or two (less you think I'm utterly selfish). I want to go on archaeological digs. I want to run in a race or two. Or swim in the English Channel.

I'm not done. I'm still alive.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mary Poppins Comes Home

Photo taken from thepopcornjunkie.com
Last week I went to play nanny while my sister took a much-needed break. I felt so good every time she called, knowing that she was having a great time (except for the night she got a migraine), and knowing that we'd transformed her house. I was hoping she wouldn't call a few thousand times asking me where I'd put the _ _ _ _ _. Luckily, I'm either an okay cleaner or she's been hibernating all weekend.

I was hoping to transform her children. I was, in part, successful. The bounders did eat vegetables, though very sparingly. One of them cried the first time I tried to get him to eat salad and tried to barf it back up. Their Aunty's slitted eyeballs must have scared the barf back inside. The second night he was in a better mood and asked me if he could eat his two leaves of lettuce with bread.
"Sure," I said, thinking it a sad commentary on his diet, but I wasn't going to push it. Then he proceeded to make a bread, lettuce, mustard, and ketchup sandwich.

I opened the fridge to get the watermelon out for a nice snack for us all, only to find that one of those boys had "moused" the whole inside with a melon baller. He sat there licking the baller and was amazed that I was angry that he'd eaten the entire sweet bit out of the family's melon. As he patted his engorged stomach, I told him it wasn't anything to gloat about. He couldn't understand why I was so disgusted.
"After all, watermelon is good for you."

Photo taken from amalia-k.blogspot.com
We also did clean the house spotless. They all helped. There was a hailstorm of complaints and more than a few muttered oaths under their breaths. I think I even heard a couple of "I hate you Aunty Heidi's". It didn't save them. They still had to clean the garage. My goal was to make L. go outside and check the address to know she was in the right place. I picked her up from the airport, though, so it didn't work.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a long enough time to actually make lasting changes. I tried to instill a wish to be more responsible and cling to fewer unacceptable behaviors; but I am a realist. Those promises were bread and butter promises--gone as soon as their mother's feet crossed the threshold.

I knew that was the likelihood when I went into it. There's always that small hope that something will finally rub off and they'll amaze me. Let's just say I wasn't amazed by hope. There have been too many years down the track. But I see glimpses. At least I can see through statements like, "We never put our clothes away. We leave them on the floor. Mom likes it that way. And why are you washing so many clothes? Mom wants us to wear them for a week or so before we toss them on the floor."

We did several fun things each day to "pay" them for their hard work. We had a lovely water gun fight, went to the library and signed them up for a summer reading program, went swimming, and bought mom some belated birthday presents. The trips to the movies, the zoo, and up the mountains never panned out.

One of the boys has a fantastic arm for baseball and loves to play the game. If he disciplined himself enough to get into shape, he could be a contender in high school sports. I wonder if there are good ball teams at military schools?

The other boy is so sweet. He could also do many more things than he believes he can. I had him shredding documents. After a while he came in and said, "Aunty Heidi, the shredder is taking a break."
"What's that mean?" I asked, suddenly worried.
"I think it's tired." Then he gave a sunny little smile and showed me the shredder.
The whole thing was cram jammed with papers plus a credit card. Yep. It was taking a break alright. Run serpentine!

When they started telling me they wouldn't be continuing the waking up before 10am or the washing of clothes and other chore action after I left, ("And by the way, when are you leaving again?") I decided that their "payment" was going to end too. There was such a deluge of complaints about my planned trip to take them for a ride up in the mountains to play, that I decided they were slightly insane and needed a chance to do nothing for a while. Unfortunate, that. I was looking forward to playing in the pines--maybe a little pine cone war action.

Mom came home full of bonhomie, great food, and fantastic pictures. Her effusive gratitude was rich payment for all the cracked dreams and leftover salad. Perhaps I should go over and (figuratively) crack the whip a little more often. Perhaps I'd be a better Mary Poppins if I got the chance to make their lessons more regular. Of course I'd also be stark staring crazy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Super Nanny

This next week I'm starting the week out driving my daughter to EFY (a conference for teens) and then spending the rest of the week playing nanny for my sister's kids.

It'll be interesting. They have an aversion to vegetables and cleaning fluids. I'm wondering how far I can take this without being bound and tied to a stake. The raging idealist in me hopes I can have them eating Brussels sprouts before the week is out.

The Realist in me knows that's a recipe for disaster. B. never eats vegetables. He subsists on bread and corn dogs. T. will eat anything except plants (except that I've gotten him to eat salad at my house). H. is a possibility. She's little and impressionable. But she's already scared I'm going to eat her, apparently. We shall see. (Not about me being mean to her, but about getting her to be on my side plant food-wise.)

I'm also launching a crud pogrom. I'm hoping the Sis will walk in and walk back out to look at the address. It'll be a test of my charisma quotient. I'll post later about whether I'm the Diva of Charisma or I've been strafed by the Chore Avoidance Squad and gone down in flaming ignominy.

The great thing is that I can bring them all back to my house for extra torture at the slightest need. Home, where all my books and computer are...;o)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Medal, Please

Wow. I think I have the coolest kids on the planet. No, you can try and push yours up to second best or go for super sidekick, but mine have the top of the podium. The Officials in charge of these things are playing the national anthem while my kids put their hands over their hearts and accept their Best child medals.

I've been feeling badly this weekend. I won't go into why, except that it involved some unkind words by various parties and no apologies. I just kept riding the roller coaster down and down and it wasn't coming back up much. Why is it the ones we love have the greatest capacity to wound us the deepest? 

I've been asking myself all week. When I really had a chance to sit down and ponder, I found the answer. It's because we care. And our greatest loves know it and they test that fact over and over again. Sometimes they push that button out of an ill-thought-out wish to  improve something, and sometimes they push it to torture us. (Stupid button. I'm taking a sledge hammer to that freakin' thing.) The jury's still out. It's probably the former, but there's lots of the latter sprinkled all over the top.

But that's not the story. I won't wallow here. Suffice it to say that I was feeling like someone had lopped off my dolls' heads and shoved them down the laundry chute. (Wait, I think we did that to each other when we were kids. I certainly don't have a chute now.) My friend C. had invited our family over for an annual celebration their family does about this time every year. We BBQ and swim and laugh ourselves silly until the wee hours.

Last night I wasn't feeling it. I came a whisker's length away from phoning her and telling her I wasn't into the party thing this week--I was waiting for the apology.

But I didn't phone her. She'd worked hard on the party and I was bringing the condiments. Then it turned out the Hubs was going off to purchase more hiking gear for himself and my son as they are soon going off on a major hiking trip. We wouldn't even be riding to the party in the same car. He'd "swept the leg" and I was down for the count. 

I was dreading the trip through the door, the possible hiding out in a corner somewhere, and the well-meaning questions. Wee. 

But they opened the door and yelled Surprise! There was a birthday banner, a whole room-full of guests, delicious dinner, and a gargantuan piece of an enormous cake which was one of the best-tasting cakes I'd ever had. C. said my son, H. and my daughter, Co. had put it all together. They'd surprised me with a 2 month late birthday party! (The better to absolutely fool you, Mom.) The whole night was dedicated to Queen Me. I wanted to drown them all in a flood of tears. Co. had put together a whole slide show of me and invited several of my closest friends. My son H. had planned to have a sort of Mom Eagle Court of Honor but he couldn't pull all the details together in time. I couldn't have been more surprised.

The moment was so surreal. It was like finding yourself about to jump off the Empire State building when someone steps up and hands you a check for a million dollars. (Not that I'm anywhere near that bad, but still...) Just the thought that these busy, super-absorbed teenagers had taken time out of their goblin-killing careers to make something about me meant so much! Thank you C. as well. You are one fantastic friend!

We had a great time and I went home feeling like my children love me. I wouldn't have traded that set of diamond moments for anything in the world. I'm going to have to write them an anthem.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Skinny on Semicolons

As a writer I am plagued by the whole semicolon problem; I'm always wondering when to use the crazy little blighters. I thought I had a handle on them; it seems I was wrong.

A semicolon is a stronger pause than a comma and a weaker pause than a period. A semicolon usually buffers two chunks of equal grammatical weight such as: items in a complicated list, comparable clauses, or phrases.

***list item; list item; list item***
 Semicolons are handy to have when your involved list already has commas or other punctuation.

I want to see Panic! At the Disco; Pop!; and go to a dinner show when I'm in Las Vegas.

I'm not going to put tape on the cat because it's wasteful and expensive; the cat doesn't appreciate it; and I have to clean up hairy tape if I do.

***independent clause; independent clause closely related in thought*** (my least understood instance) Often you don't need conjunctions such as but, and, and so with a semicolon.

Frequently there are escapee spoons in the bottom of the dishwasher; I can't think how they got there.

Conjunctive adverbs such as consequently, otherwise, furthermore, thus, unfortunately, nonetheless, hence, however, moreover, meanwhile, rather, nevertheless, then, and therefore can't link sentences together by themselves. They need a semicolon.

  Sammy took the trash out this morning; unfortunately, the cat was hiding in the trashcan.

If you don't use the semicolon in this case, you get a comma splice.
Important point: when you use words like however and therefore in the middle of your independent clause, they are preceded and followed by commas. Note the difference.

There is a squirrel sitting on top of the freezer; however, he's merely serving as the lookout.
There is a squirrel sitting on top of the freezer; his job, however, is merely to serve as lookout.

If you join independent clauses containing for example, at any rate, on the other hand, or indeed, you'll need a semicolon before and a comma after.

 I wanted to have steak for breakfast; in fact, I wanted buffalo steak and onions.

***phrase; phrase***

For my trip to Antarctica, I'm going to shut off the gas; stop the mail; and give the cat away.

If you forgo the use of a semicolon and use a comma between independent clauses causes a run-on sentence and is called a comma splice:

I frequently run red lights, yellow lights never indicate how long I have before red. (wrong)

The poor little comma is too weak to hold the two sentences together without the aid of conjunctions like and, but, so, nor, yet, or, and for.

A semicolon fixes that problem nicely:
I frequently run red lights; yellow lights never indicate how long I have before red. (Too bad semicolons do nothing for the light situation.)

***When NOT to use a semicolon***

Don't use a semicolon to precede a quotation; use a comma.

Wasn't it Caesar who said; "Et tu Brutae?" (wrong)
Wasn't it Caesar who said, "Et tu Brutae?" (right)

Don't use semicolons between unequal items such as an independent clause/prepositional phrase.

My children would eat Otter Pops until the cows came home; especially the root beer ones. (wrong)
My children would eat Otter Pops until the cows came home, especially the root beer ones. (right)

Don't use a semicolon when hooking up a dependent clause/independent clause.

Although I once said you could have an Otter Pop; that doesn't mean you can devour them every time you see them. (wrong)
Although I once said you could have an Otter Pop, that doesn't mean you can devour them every time you see them. (right)

Don't use semicolons to introduce the list.

I have to go buy; bleach, trash bags, a shovel, and something to remove blood from the floor. (wrong on both levels)
I have to go buy: bleach, trash bags, a shovel, and something to remove blood from the floor. (still a bad idea but the grammar is correct)

Now I have to go through my stinking manuscripts and change everything. Thanks, Scott Foresman. I should have memorized you earlier.

I used the Scott Foresman Handbook for Writers by Maxine Hairston and John J. Ruszkiewicz

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Kiss

Every time my husband sees people kissing in a movie or show I see him roll his eyes and groan. For him, there is rarely a valid time when two people should kiss in media. I have observed him carefully at such times and have found that the time to plant a juicy pucker, is, for him, pretty much non-existent. 

We ourselves kiss regularly--sometimes good and steamy kisses--sometimes just pecks or playful kisses. Our kissing activities are in no way disgusting to the Hubs.

But there's always some reason why that movie kiss should never have taken place. Either they haven't known each other for long enough, or there is some other mitigating circumstance: one of the kissers is a vampire, or too young, or too old, or Death Incarnate, or too silly, or too damaged or too evil or too misunderstood, ad nauseum ad infinitum. And the Hubs makes that fact loudly known, thus wrecking the moment.

We watched Top Gun last night. My daughter thought it was funny that we chicks were watching Top Gun--an action flick--while the guys only came in to watch the chick flick we watched later. Maybe it was a good thing. I doubt the Hubs could have held quiet while "Charley" did the whole tongue-jousting thing with "Maverick". We would have heard nothing but complaints about what a playboy Maverick was, or that they weren't even going to be in the same state for long, or that Maverick was doing something so dangerous that he ditched a million-dollar jet. All were valid thoughts. But the time to discuss that is not while they're fogging up my screen.

We were watching Meet Joe Black the other day when he came in right at a kissing scene. He rolled his eyes and announced, "Well that's obviously a bad idea." Never mind that Brad Pitt was so hot it made my teeth hurt and their kisses were steaming up my glasses. I could have done without the lousy language and the raunchy scene but the kisses were bliss! 

I didn't want to think about what a stinking bad idea it was to kiss Death. I wanted to think about what he, as an avatar incarnate, was experiencing for the first time--how it must have felt to compare that set of sensations to peanut butter or any of the other firsts he had recently encountered. I wanted to be the lucky girl at the other end of his lips for a few seconds.

A frisson would have run up my back and jigged through my brain if it weren't for Sighing Man over there making fun of the rich girl kissing the dessicated dead guy, or rather the collector of post mortal people.

And don't get me started on vampires. Hubby's groans can be heard clear down the street when he strolls into our room while I'm having a private viewing of Twilight or Vampire Diaries (private for obvious reasons here revealed). He simply can't wrap his brain around the trifecta of old guys, blood-sucking demons, and rotting corpses.

Even Mr. Darcy elicits a groan of gargantuan proportions. I can see the words play across the invisible ticker tape on his forehead: "But he's a snobby jerk to her! What's she kissing him for? Look at that, she only wanted him after she saw his house."

The thing is, he'll still sit there and watch the rest of the movie. What's up with that?