Monday, May 29, 2006

dixie and yankee in one fell swoop?

Your Linguistic Profile::
60% General American English
15% Dixie
10% Upper Midwestern
10% Yankee
0% Midwestern
What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Sunday, May 14, 2006


To the woman in her SUV
Who flew past me this morning
At approximately 9:45 a.m.
And was probably late for church
As I was running on Duke,
Speed limit 35,
Putting in my miles--

Who gestured angrily
As she swerved on the deserted road
To miss my rain-soaked body
An accusatory finger
Pointing at the concrete sidewalk
That lined the asphalt.

Her face twisted into an angry
The silver grate on her behemoth
Echoed her emotion.

I could not flag her down
At 45 m.p.h.
To plead my case of aching joints
That like deserted asphalt
Slightly more
Than cured concrete

I carried her angry face
And finger
With me for three miles
Before releasing them
In the wind

Feeling cleansed
By the rain,
I could only hope
She reached her destination
On time
And that one day
She would know
Running in a rainfall
Joints happy
Chest heaving
Watching the cars fly by
As she kept her own time
Her own pace
On the road.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Button, button who's got the button?

For my fellow Monday-nighters, here is my button story:

For my non Monday night readers, the prompt was simple. Choose a button from a glass jar full of buttons and write as the button, to the button, or about the button. This is the result.

Mama wore her red sweater with the gold-brass buttons in the winter when it was cold. She would cozy up to the fire in her creaky wooden rocking chair and sit, silently stabbing the canvas with her needle, creating patterns in basketweave and longstitch that never saw the light of day. The gold buttons glinted in the firelight and threw dazzling patterns on the opposite wall. She would finger them occasionally, while waiting for my older brother Jody and father to return from the fields, long past dark, when the thresher had been put away and the hay neatly stacked into bales, ready for selling.

We buried Mama in that red sweater with the golden brass buttons that glittered in the lamplight. When God took her to her heavenly home, Daddy said that when she got there she would be cold. Mama was always cold. So he shrouded her chest in worn, off-red wool, kissed her temple and brushed the steely locks from her forehead one last time. Then he went out to milk the cows, while Jody dragged wood in from the lean-to. It was my job to keep Mama company until the preacher arrived. I stared and stared that those golden brass buttons like they knew the answer.

The next day, I took Mama’s needlepoint and hurled it into the river way down by the Halpern’s place. I wasn’t going to sit by the fire and stab at a canvas until I got old enough to be a mama myself. I wasn’t going to cook and clean for the menfolk the way they wanted me to. I was getting out of Jethro’s Island.

Before the closed the lid on the coffin and hauled Mama away, I asked to tell her one last secret. Daddy looked at me with flint in his eyes.

“Go on, then,” he said, pushing me forward.

I had concealed Mama’s sewing scissors in the palm of my hand. I quickly slunk to the coffin, bent down as if I was telling her my deepest, darkest secret, and snipped a button from her sweater. Then I blew her a kiss as she did me every night since I could remember.

I kept that button on a golden thread, first around my neck, and later on my wrist, in my pocket or under my pillow. It was with me when Dickie took away my childhood. It kept me company on the long road out of Jethro’s Island, and it stayed in my hand when I went to collect my M.D. at the end of last year.

Now Mama’s button is on my own red sweater. Unlike hers, mine isn’t a shroud. It’s a shoulder of opportunity, a link to my past and a reminder of the woman I could have become.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A gentle kick in the pants

Lest I ever complain about my work life. I do, sometimes. But nothing is as bad as it was when I was teaching. I like what Keillor has to say. I wonder what inspired it. And the quote below is one of my favorite parts of the article.

"Clarity is hard. Honesty can be hard. Comedy is always chancy, but then so is profundity. Sometimes one winds up as the other. Illness is, of course, to be avoided, and also megamalls and meetings involving vice presidents. But writing is not painful, no more so than a round of golf. "--Garrison Keillor


I am facing the icy challenge of the paper and just writing. I have lots of projects to work on, yet feel scattered and unfocused due to the morning’s rush. Not a dance this morning—a full-fledged, oh my god my alarm didn’t go off and now I’m late, rush. Not my alarm. I set it for 7 a.m. and was awakened 30 minutes prior by Sam’s cooing turned fussing in his crib. I scooped him up, brought him in to bed in hopes of catching a few more minutes, and dozed slightly while he breathed in his own funny little way next to me, occasionally grabbing my nose for comfort.

I know there will be much undoing by bringing him into bed, but I just couldn’t bring myself to remain in a prone position. At five til 7 I turned off the alarm, which hadn’t had a chance to sound, fished my running clothes from the pile beside my bed and resigned myself to a run-walk that only made me more tired. But I’m hoping for an energy blast later in the day—either due to exercise or caffeine.

When I returned from my run around 8 a.m., it was too quiet. No shower noise, no television that I could hear, no children crying for milk or clean diapers. A gentle snore rose in the distance.

I called to Marc to let him know the time. “Marc?” I questioned tentatively, “it’s 8 o’clock.”

A sleepy voice answered. “It is? Shit. What time did you leave?”



The starting gun sounded and we were off. I threw some water in my mouth and hoped my glycogen stores would last another hour until I could make the time to eat. Syd and Sam were languishing on the bed; he had finished his milk and she was lollygagging with hers, cuddling a pillow. Her pajama bottoms were next to her and a quick peek revealed that she had changed from her nighttime diaper into her underwear. One hurdle cleared.

I searched in Syd’s closet for something appropriate to wear. The radio station that had accompanied me on my morning slog said that the high would reach 77 today. I wasn’t sure that I trusted it, but you can do a lot with capris.

We’re in this funny between seasons and between sizes stage with Syd and her clothes. I managed to pair a bubble gum pink pair of denim capris with a non-offensive medium blue short sleeved top, grabbed some socks and headed into my room, where Steve was trying in vain to figure out Blue’s Clues. When will the man learn? If you just look for the pawprints, you’ll find the clues!

The outfit wouldn’t pass any fashion tests, but it would keep her fairly warm and covered through her playing indoors and out today. The fun part would be getting it on her wriggly body.

“NO!” she screamed, seeing me approach with her clothes in my arms. “I don’t WANT to get dressed. I want to watch TELLY!” Multi-tasking has not yet entered her vocabulary.

“We have to get ready for school,” I stated. “Daddy’s running late.” I had thrown some food in her lunchbag while guzzling my water after my run, and my goal was to get her dressed and started on breakfast before Marc got out of the shower. He usually stands under the spray for about 20 minutes, even when he is running late, so the goal was specific and achievable, provided I managed to keep Syd in one place while I was trying to dress her. Chasing her around the house while carrying capris and a t-shirt significantly cut down on my time.

Fortunately, she was somewhat engrossed in that morning’s episode and it only required a few extra tugs on my part to get her flannel pajamas over her head. Socks went on next, as they were the path of least resistance, and the capris, which had looked so cute on the hanger but always proved to be such a struggle in donning, were last.

I accomplished my post-run stretching routine easily while trying to get the child into her pants. Huffing, I allowed her to climb back up on the bed for a moment while I found an outfit for Sam.

Not being able to speak, Sam has little say in what goes on his body every day. This is a true blessing, and I am hoping that his lack of concern over clothing will continue on into his teenage years. Not that I want him to be a schlemiel; I just don’t relish the idea of dropping hundreds of dollars on low riders, high tops and basketball jerseys that seem to be the envy of all teenage boys these days.

I picked a simple pair of pants and shirt for Sam and got him dressed without incident. He did try to get his socks off the moment they were on his feet, but the kid has to have some pleasure in life.

Both kids were dressed. Second hurdle cleared. It was time for breakfast, and wrenching my little darling away from the idiot box was a task I despised.

“Syd! Breakfast! Let’s go!” I called.

“But MOMMY!” she wailed, “I want to finish watching Blue’s Clues!”

“We can turn it on downstairs,” I relented, hoping she would forget about the show on the journey between the two floors. I gathered Sam, his now-empty bottle and her sippy cup from yesterday in my arms and ran down the steps, pausing only to deposit Sam in his high chair and the milk containers in the sink.

Fluidly, I glided towards the pantry, chose some cereal for all of us and set to work. Bowls, spoons and Cheerios flew. I sprinkled a few Cheerios onto Sam’s tray so that he would feel included, which he promptly threw on the floor. I mixed some rice cereal with water for him and searched for a spoon. I put some Life in a bowl for her and called to her again to come downstairs and get some breakfast. Lastly, I poured myself a bowl of Kashi and quickly dug in.

In between bites, calling for Syd to come downstairs and picking up Cheerios, I somehow crafted a grocery list. Finally, she appeared in the doorway, with her bird’s nest of hair and her stars blankie. She is too young to look like a zombie in the morning, I thought to myself. Mornings are supposed to be fun when you’re a kid.

I lifted her into her booster seat and put the bowl of cereal—and a spoon—in front of her. “Mommy,” she said seriously, “this needs milk.”

Well, of course. But I wasn’t going to take the time to explain how Life cereal goes disgustingly soggy if you put the milk in too far ahead of time. Instead, I nodded and grabbed the gallon from the counter, slopped some in and sat down to finish my cereal and glance through the first four pages of “Newsweek.” It was quiet, all of us were eating and the third hurdle was behind me.

Finishing up, I tried to give Sam a few spoonfuls of the rice cereal but each one was rejected. He knew it wasn’t his usual and he wasn’t happy about it. Throwing caution to the wind, I grabbed a wagon wheel from the pantry, even though technically, according to the packaging, infants are supposed to be “crawling on all fours” before you allow them the delicacy of puffed carrots and apples shaped into, well, a wagon wheel. He was scooching. Did that count? It would have to.

Sydney asked for more cereal. Even though she had more than enough in her bowl, I decided to forgo the argument. I put another small handful in her bowl.

“Now I need more milk,” she said.

“No, Syd, there’s plenty of milk there. Just eat your cereal,” I countered. I glanced in the bowl just to be sure. It seemed to contain the proper cereal to milk ratio for her age group.

“More MILK!” she stated firmly, her voice rising in pitch.

I didn’t want to engage, so I ignored her. She started a temper tantrum and I continued to ignore her. “Newsweek” was so much more engrossing. Screams of “DADDY!” echoed to the top floor of the house.

She pushed her bowl away and I let it stay where it was. After a minute of more screaming, she grabbed the bowl again. I saw where it was headed, and, as if in slow motion, I grabbed the blue plastic vessel when its angle reached 45 degrees. Disaster averted and hurdle cleared.

Syd sat and sulked when she didn’t succeed in overturning her cereal, making a mess and proving her point. After a few minutes, I asked if she wanted more of her breakfast. “No!” she barked.

I cleared the dishes, checked to be sure Sam wasn’t choking on his wagon wheel, and went on a search for her shoes. Pink canvas slip-ons with velcro, they usually stayed wherever Syd managed to get them off the day before. I thought back to the previous day, our walk outside and sidewalk chalk artwork. She came in and promptly fell asleep on the couch. And there they were, nestled by the side of the ottoman next to the fireplace. Hurdled cleared.

I put her shoes on her feet, checked that her face was not too full of milk and grabbed a hairbrush to get her now grown-out bangs out of her face. To minimal protesting, I achieved my goal. Thank God for “No more tangles,” I thought to myself.

By this time, Marc had appeared in the kitchen doorway. “What was all the screaming about?” he asked.

“Breakfast,” I said, not wanting to rehash the details. “It’s all good now.”

Syd plopped herself in front of the television, blankie in hand. She knew that Daddy’s appearance in the kitchen didn’t signify a quick move to the car. She was ready to go and I was willing to let her watch a few more minutes while I got the dishes in the dishwasher, cleaned the wagon wheel off of Sam’s face, and guzzled another glass of water.
”I want to finish Blue’s Clues now,” she announced.

“Sweetie, I think it’s over,” I said, glancing at the clock. 8:29. Blue was definitely finished; Max and Ruby, another one of her favorites, was due to start.

“But I want Noggin!” she whined.

“Just a minute,” I said, searching for the remote control. “How do you ask?”

“Please?” she responded.

I flipped on her beloved Noggin and listened as Max and Ruby started their adventure at the pretend doctor’s officer. “Mommy!” she squealed, “it’s a new one! We haven’t seen this one yet!”

Well, I had, numerous times. It was the one where Max gets a red marker and draws dots all over himself, and Ruby and her friend Louise freak out that he has chicken pox. But I didn’t want to spoil her elation so I murmured, “Uh-huh.”

Marc puttered around the kitchen, making a quick sandwich and forcing four pills down his throat. When he asked where his phone, keys and wallet were, I knew we were in the home stretch. The last hurdle would be actually getting Syd to the car.

“Syd, come on, we’re leaving,” he called, in between looking for his things and giving his face a final once-over with an electric razor. “Let’s go. It’s time.”

She was too engrossed in Max’s red spots to respond.

“Syd, your friends are waiting,” I said, running a broom over the floor and sweeping up last night’s rice and this morning’s Cheerios. “Sydney! Darling!”

My increased volume broke her out of her stupor. “But Mommy, I want to finish watching Max and Ruby,” she cried, voice rising.

“It’s time to go to school, Syd,” I said again.

“Syd, I’m leaving without you,” Marc called at the same time.

All three of our voices were escalating in pitch. Sam had covered himself with wagon wheel goop and was adding his tones to the mix. I swept up the pile and reached for a cloth to clean him up.

Marc appeared in the doorway once again and made his way over to her. “I’m going to do something very special for you,” he said to her, taking on a false sense of sweetness that belied the growing annoyance building in his belly. “Something I don’t do for anyone else, ever.”

“Except yourself,” I editorialized.

He pretended not to hear me. “I’m going to tape the end of Max and Ruby so you can watch it tonight when you get home, okay?” he stated, with a small pleading note.

“Okay Daddy,” Syd said, scooting herself off the couch.

“Give Mommy a hug and a kiss,” he instructed.

I leaned down to embrace her, checking one last time for breakfast residue. Marc kissed me on the cheek as I stood up and finally, the door clicked shut behind them. I collapsed in a chair. The last hurdle was behind me.

“Sam,” I said, picking him up from his high chair. “Let’s go start the morning.”