Page the Second


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

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Great Cereal Debate

I was just over at another blog (Point Counter-Point Point Point) and we were discussing the Lucky Charms marshmallow dilemma.

Now I don't really eat the marshmallow cereals much, not wanting to contact Black Plague or Leprosy or other sugar-induced maladies. But when we're camping I can't just pack everybody's favorite cereal. There wouldn't be room in the car for all the real stuff you have to take (like laptops and bags of rocks and...you know...the kids). So it was a charm-filled cereal and one of the donut-seed type cereals.

Amazingly, not once was the donut-seed cereal breeched (I hope that's the right 'breeched.' Otherwise I'm saying that we didn't put pants on the box.) It was all charms every day. The donut-seed one even boasted a sugar coating. The lure of the marshmallows-so-bright-you-can-see-'em-from-space was too great.

So what's the deal? I go to the store and try to pick breakfast fodder that isn't going to make my family bloat up like beached whales, but the store gives me no help at all. It's either sugar-chunks or cat/hamster food that tastes like the dust off the top of my closet (don't ask me why I know what that tastes like) and ages ungracefully in my cupboard attracting ants.

How come we can't have a nutritious, yet stomach and taste-bud-pleasing cereal? Who actually thinks that eating a bowl of cookies is going to get their kid through the day with A+ in everything because he ate a great breakfast? I'm waiting for the day when I hear someone tell me their savvy kid came home and told them, "No thanks, Mom. I don't need cookies. Can I have a bowl of cereal?"

How did cereal go from this to this?

The mindset on this thing boggles. But somehow, the gurus at the cereal factory have done it. They've filled the shelves with food you can't feed a dog anymore. (That being my main criteria. If a dog won't eat that stuff, my kid doesn't get it.)

There's got to be a middle ground. Because after you suck out all the cereal-y goodness and inject enough dye and sugar to drop a charging rhino, what's left? Kids will go for that bright, sparkle-fairy sugar every time. If you offer an aisle with nothing but cube-sugar with a smattering of cookie bits, they'll bite.

I'd love to see what they'd do if they came in one day and the breakfast aisle was full of Lima Bean Loops or Squash Surprise. "Mom, please pass the Brussels Sprout Squares." Yeah. That would be the day. Children would be flocking to the table for a real breakfast. Those muscles would pop. Gone would be that flab. Sit-ups anyone? "Helga, can you just put the trash can down on the corner, please? Yeah, put it down now. The handle's breaking off." That.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Surfing Was Great

I have returned! We are back from vacation in the land of fruits and nuts--tanned, a little broken, sore, wiser, and full of sights, sounds, and smells.

We visited with family and traveled down memory lane to the places my husband once called home. He pointed out the changes time had wrought--some of them sweeping, some not so large.

My own goal was to commune with the waves, and I did. The ocean fills me with peace, mostly. Seeing the light shining through the green-tinged waves, watching the silt glint as the roller passed, waiting for the next big swell to lift me on it's shoulder, the icy embrace of the crashing, thundering salt--it all was medicine to my soul.

The denizens of the sea flashed past us as we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium: delicate bejeweled jellies, coasting hulks of tuna and shark, forests of undulating kelp, fey sea horses, spritely puffins. I could have spent several more hours cruising the rooms, but we closed the place out and went on down the Big Sur.

I got a pebble from Pebble Beach. We found sand dollars at Morro Bay. We saw beaches full of basking, bedraggled elephant seals in their catastrophic moulting season. We explored tide pools, scampering over rocks and through fly-blown heaps of steaming seaweed. My Hubs slipped on a rocking boulder and probably broke or cracked some ribs. He is still in agony when he turns wrong or coughs.

This time the ocean was up against some stiff odds. Little annoyances, like urchins, crept in and chipped away at my well-being. I won't enumerate them here, but they left me questioning myself and my abilities. I have no answers yet.

Luckily the ocean had help from some extremely large entities with needles for leaves. The Sequoias' massive girth stretched up from the guts of the world, pulling the sun into their gargantuan tunnelsomeness, dwarfing us once again. Moro Rock let us look clear out to the end of the world where the air gets thin and misty.

Half Dome and El Capitan dwarfed us as well. They and Bridle Veil Falls put me firmly in my place, to my chagrin. It wasn't a comfortable spot to be, showing me my finite nature and limitations, despite wishing I had my pre-ballet (Or is it the fighting that did it?) knees back and could still climb well.

At San Simeon I found a pebble beach one morning, with the mist lifting off it. The sea-washed pebbles glittered in the rising sun, reminding me that I, too, was once like them: rough and plain at first. The crashing surf had pounded them, knocked the sharp edges off and polished them into smooth, elegant beauties. I just need to be able to endure the process without being turned into sand.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Iron Your Space Suits

I'd like to know what the deal is with having every hero be in his early twenties, single, ripped, and superhumanly talented at everything. The girls all have humongous chests, are fabulously gorgeous, effortlessly buff, and better than guys at all martial arts coughlauracroftcough. They never have cracked nails, bad hair days, zits, or sudden fits of hiccuping. They don't trip, stumble, or fall flat on their faces in front of important people (like smokin' hot boyfriend fodder).

All I can think of is that we want what we don't have. We (okay I) glance in passing at the magazines on the end caps of the grocery store aisles because those "beautiful people" live in houses the size of Rhode Island. Who wouldn't want to breeze through one of those babies with their roller skates on, or swim in their massive tubs? (I've nannied in one of those. It was a blast!) They drive the indigo Ferraris I can only drive when I'm asleep.

Not that I want their life, but I'd sure like the adventure.

Occasionally, though, I want a heroine who has grown kids. I want to read about someone who now and then has their back go out on a stunt. Sometimes they've got to run into something and get a really gargantuan bruise--the kind that makes people ask them what the heck they've been up to to get a monstrous bruise like that. I want someone who starts out kind of blubbery and finally loses a ton of weight running after bad guys. She's got to huff and puff like a freight train, though.

And maybe the dude who loves her has a bum knee and occasional dandruff. Yeah. That's a little bit about what makes The Incredibles so appealing to me. They had a family. They weren't fixed in amber at one point in their life, past which they could never get. Louis McMaster Bujold does that with her Miles Vorkisigan books. She needs to write more of them, though. Miles might be slowing down, but he still needs to have more adventures. Anne McCaffrey did those in hers. The whole family got into the mix. Bring it on!

Can you tell I'm a voracious reader? Yep. I take a book (or my lamented kindle which is taking a dirt nap...sigh) everywhere.

So when I say that this age group (and weight class?) has been neglected, I know what I'm talking about. I eat sci fi, fantasy, historical romance, historical fiction, paranormal, mystery, historical mystery...like strawberry cheesecake. Mnom nom nom nom.

We don't suddenly dry up and blow away when we get to thirty-five. Life has to go on. I'm sure that if people were on space ships exploring the galaxy they wouldn't just fly home every time they had a person pass their twenty-seventh birthday. There would be some old bats on there, plugging away at what they were doing before.  And not all of them would be mopping or serving food in the mess hall.

There would be families. Because who could just leave their family behind forever? How could you just say "Hasta la vista" to your mom until the end of time? "See ya later, Dad. You'll most likely be dead if I ever come back to Earth." Or, "Sorry, son, you'll have to live with Grandma now for the rest of your life because I'm bailing on you for a gig in space."

Let's see some representation for the teenagerly-challenged. After all, what you are, we once were. And what we are, you will become...if you're lucky. So iron your space suits and be sure to pack Tiger Balm and maybe a donut to sit on. We're going to space.

(By the way, I'm not that old. Really. I'm actually twenty-five in an alternate reality. Yeah. That's the (possibly true on some level but most definitely false) story I'm sticking with. And I went climbing for my last birthday. Fact.)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Girdle Explosion

We took the boy to the airport on Wednesday. The journey was harrowing to my nerves. Right now I'm experiencing that feeling when a chubby lady takes off her girdle--explosively fabulous.

Let's just say that H's idea of what needed to be done first and my ideas rarely jived. He'd usually get around to my list--eventually. Which meant that for a few months just prior to June 5th I would suggest things he might want to get started on (like applying for school and getting his passport and visa going) and he would put it off in favor of more entertaining ideas.

It's not that he was wholly disobedient or fractious about the whole thing. He just had an agenda unmatched to anyone else's. Which made for some aggravation on his parents' parts. He never did apply for school. He'll learn later what a huge mistake that was.

So when it came time to get his passport we were rushing around like chickens on hacking day. We found out several important things:
1. The post offices in this town don't communicate with each other much or well.
2. No post offices in this benighted city have passport capabilities.
3. The ones on-line must be frequented by people who own their own jets.
4. Walmart remains Hick-city (Someone in their facility accidentally removed all passport photo capabilities). No offense, Walmart.
5. Walgreens gets it done--but not all the way done. (We had to go clear back home to change and then go clear back to Walgreens and pay full price for the second set of pictures. They won't just copy them for you.) No offense, Walgreens. You at least did the job.
6. Prayer works.

Number six explanation: We'd finally gotten all the required photos and pre-paperwork squared away and were headed downtown to the courthouse to make this a done deal. I found that there is construction down there. Now normally navigating the downtown area is a headache. There are all kinds of one-way streets and parking is a mother of a headache.
With construction and detours, the problem is compounded exponentially. Traffic was snarled so badly that I was sure we'd miss our appointment. I told H. we needed to pray. So we did. Suddenly the knot untied, and straight ahead there was a huge parking garage, with the courthouse just a few hundred yards away.
Hot Diggety!
We got in, got the paperwork expedited, and got out in under half an hour...a record.

Then his visa thing came along. I don't think the boy ever completely read the manual they give prospective missionaries with their call (a letter that tells them where they're going to serve). Or at least he didn't until the bitter end. He would have noticed that the paper about the visa said two different things: "Get going on your visa in April." And the other, "Wait until a month before you leave to do your visa. There were some tense calls to the travel office.

So it came down to the last few days. H. was still setting up visits to his stable job to go horseback riding (Didn't happen...sigh.) and game appointments and movie appointments. I was looking at his room thinking "That's a huge load to pack up. I wonder if he'll finish." The joke, my friends, is on me. It's still a massive pile of rubbish and he was the clean one.

The day before he left he was supposed to meet with the Stake President to get set apart (it's a prayer to make him a missionary for those who don't know) at eight pm. We had to get a few little things at the store and then we were going swimming and he was getting his hair cut by someone in beauty school he'd promised to help out. Then we'd go home and get ready to go at a nice, leisurely rate. Ha!

That was my idea. The reality made me a padded room candidate. The shopping took much of the day in a car with no AC. It was hot enough to bake cookies on the roof. We went to the bank and (according to the Hubs) did all the wrong things. There was no swimming involved. There was no eating involved. There were snarky comments because the car was the peanut gallery. And unbeknown to anyone outside H's skin, he was slated to go to the movies with a girl between the haircut and the Stake President. And she wasn't even the one who cut his hair.

The other thing we didn't know was that the Stake Clerk had called and told someone that we were meeting him at six instead of eight. Our house became a piranha feeding frenzy of well-dressed pacers as we tried fruitlessly to get hold of H. Apparently he was obedient at the movies and turned off his phone.

So he was too late to meet with the Stake President. The only other time was the next morning. He had to be in the airport at 5:05am. The Pres. set the meeting for 5:15. I freaked until the Hubs said they never whine if people are late. I begged to differ, but what could we do? It was nice enough that he was meeting us before the birds got up.

So we all trundled into our clothes at O'dark hundred and headed off in separate cars (Hubs had to go to work), except for the eldest son, who I called and woke up. I found that the gas gauge read bone-dry. We finally made it there in the nick and the boy got his blessing.

Then I had to do something I swore never to do again. I had to pay for short-term parking. (I'd sworn not to ever park there because once when I was eight or so months pregnant and on bed rest, the ticket taker person had made me waddle back through the whole parking lot looking for my lost stub, or pay for a whole day's worth of parking.) It turned out to be sort of painless, though.

As I hugged my son good-bye thoughts roiled around in my head about FIDDLER ON THE ROOF when the father is kissing his girls good-bye as they went out into the world (also in Russia), possibly never to be seen or heard from again. Those searing thoughts battled with the ones about other missionaries who had major health emergencies there and had to endure operations with no anesthesia.

One word, one mistake can get a person in heap-loads of trouble over there. H. is a joker. He rarely has a serious picture. He says things. And he'll already be right there next to Siberia. Yeah. I'm worrying for two years. I bawled clear home. And every time I look at his stuff, I weep again.

And then I remember that H. is God's beloved servant, doing God's work. Heavenly Father, who engineered the world and put us, His creations, here is fully capable of taking care of one little missionary boy. He juggles thousands of them already. Now I need to let Him take care of my worries. After all, His Son already shouldered everyone's burdens.

The field is white and ready to harvest. Farewell and Godspeed, my son.