30 June 2006


So when Ms. Four turned four a month-ish ago, it was princesses all around. Right down to the birthday cake, which this Mama-Lady managed, by some sort of honest-to-gahd, frikkin' miracle, to pull off by herself. Check it out:

No, I didn't get this from a store, and no, I didn't really intend for the dress to be quite so Pepto-Bismal, neon pink.

And yes, that really is a gen-u-ine Barbie wearing that contraption.

A Barbie that I bought of my very own volition with my very own money. Me. The very same Mama-Lady that, for just over three years now, has been actively forbidding all forms of grandmother to purchase Ms. Four any form of Barbie.

Why, you ask? Well, duh. Present femi-nazi dogma states that allowing little girls to play with Barbie with warp their poor little innocent brains into thinking they need to be six foot tall, blond, big-boobed, tiny-waisted, unnaturally curvy hipped bimbos. Right?

Well, maybe. Unfortunately, the femi-nazis forgot one very important fact, which I discoverd after we got home with Barbie and her twin (one of the grandmothers ignored the moratorium this time). Playing with Barbie is fun.

Lots of fun. Loads of fun. I had forgotten how much fun. Changing their clothes, putting on new shoes, sticking them into their jeep and taking off on an adventure. changing their clothes when they get back, sitting down and having a tea party, changing their clothes, playing with their hair, changing their clothes. Oh, and did I mention changing their clothes??

My great-grandmother, if you can believe this, made Barbie clothes for my Barbies when I was a kid. Made them. Herself! With a damn sewing machine! I don't remember much about them, except that they were hard to get on because Barbie's legs were sort of rubbery and that made fabric stick to her, so pants were a bitch to pull up. And my Barbie days were in the days before Velcro (yes, I'm really that ancient), so all the clothes my Grammy made had metal snaps that - after struggling for 10 minutes to pull on a sleeve or pant leg - were even more of a bitch to fasten. Maybe that's why I don't remember what most of them look like.

But I'll never forget that fur coat.

There were fights over that coat, if I remember right. Everybody wanted her Barbie to be the one to wear it. It was a wrap-around affair, so no snaps. And it was a winter coat, so it was roomy and not so hard to get on. And it had this great collar. Light brown fake fur, it framed Barbie's face and crossed elegently over her boobs. Barbie was just absolutely glamorous whenever she wore it.

You can't imagine how badly I wish I still had that coat, because as I was sitting on the living room floor with Ms. Four and trying to convince her that she really needed to play Barbies with me for just five more minutes, pleeeease!, I decided the femi-nazis are wrong. No amount of playing with Barbie is going to warp a kid's mind so badly they think they need to look like a doll. That's just silly.

I mean look at me. I spent countless hours playing Barbies. I plan to spend countless more hours playing Barbies (if I can convince Ms. Four to sit still long enough, that is). I have never, ever been in any danger of wanting to be tall or big-boobed (although I will admit to a bout of blondness once in a while).

So I don't think it's going to hurt Ms. Four much, if at all. And really, I just wish she'd let me swap the tutu on that one Barbie for something more comfortable for lying around the house.

24 June 2006

You might be a Yankee if...

  • You think barbecue is a verb meaning 'to cook outside'.
  • You think Heinz Ketchup is SPICY.
  • You don't know what a moon pie is.
  • You don't know anyone with two first names (i.e. Jo Bob, Billy Bob).
  • You've never, ever eaten Okra.
  • You eat fried chicken with a knife and fork.
  • You have no idea what a polecat is.
  • Instead of referring to two or more people as 'y'all', you call them 'you guys', even if both of them are women.
  • None of your fur coats are homemade.

I clipped the foregoing out of a New England newspaper many, many years ago (I post it here only because it is so yellowed with age I'm afraid I'm going to lose it in the move to the new house because it may disintegrate at any moment). I clipped it because I thought it was funny. I had been in The South once or twice and thought I knew why: I THOUGHT it was making fun of Southerners. Now I'm not so sure.

Take the barbecue one, for instance. I didn't know until I moved here three years ago what barbecue - Southern barbecue - actually is: fabulous! It's some kind of meat that's been smoked (usually it's pork, but I've had beef and turkey as well) and is eaten on a hamburger bun with some kind of fiery sauce, pickles and - if you're a little out there like me - mayo. Usually, you get it with sides, which might include beans (sort of like baked beans, but a bit spicier), potato salad, green beans, etc.

In other words, 'barbecue' in The South is a noun bearing no resemblence whatsoever to the Yankee definition of 'barbecue' (Southerners use the term 'grilling out' for that). So when I first read that clipping, I assumed it was meant as a slight to Southerners. Now I understand. What it really means is: Yankees don't get it.

I hold up my mother as a perfect example of the ketchup one. She probably does think it's spicy.

As for moon pies, well, Yankees do have 'em. But we call 'em 'whoopie pies'. Yes, really. 'Nuff said there.

I don't know about the rest of it. Yet. Guess I haven't lived here long enough, but I suspect one day I'll discover some inside knowledge about okra and homemade fur coats that will have me rolling on the floor at myself and what I thought I knew... Yep. It's all about perspective.

23 June 2006

The Joys of The Pregnant

Things I’ll miss

  • Playing guess the body part while watching my belly distort itself into configurations that even in my wildest nightmares I could not have thought up.
  • Hiccups. (Hers not mine.)
  • Taking my time crossing the street at the Medical Center where everybody is in a hurry. Everybody but the Pregnant Lady. Nobody dares rush her.
  • The don’t-mess-with-the-Pregnant-Lady-if-you-value-your-life aura I seem to exude. People just do what I tell them. They don’t fuss. They don’t argue. They just do it.
  • The Husband’s occasional participation in kitchen cleaning duties. Without being asked. (Minor miracle, that.)
  • The extra scoop of Spicy Tofu that the ladies in the hospital cafeteria give me after eyeing the belly.
  • The fact that the cafeteria's older cashier gentleman who wears a hairnet and always has a hand-written quotation taped to his register never charges me extra for the extra scoop of Spicy Tofu.

Things I won’t miss

  • Waddling and the constant pain that goes with it. Giving birth should be a cinch after this – it only lasts a matter of hours. Not months. And months. And friggin’ months. Without end.
  • Taking 15 minutes and the assistance of a small crane to turn over in bed at night. (You think I’m kidding. Aren’t you cute.)
  • Every other person I run into – including, and perhaps most especially, perfect strangers – telling me I’m about to pop. In those exact words. I wouldn’t mind this so much if I actually WAS about to pop, but I’m not. I’m 6 to 8 weeks out from poppin’, people. SHUT. UP.
  • Standing sideways at the sink. So I can reach it.

Things I’m looking forward to

  • That first smile. And don't tell ME it's gas. I know gas. That ain't it.
  • Handing the baby to someone else to carry for a while, so I can walk around BY MYSELF.
  • Not having to pee every 10 minutes. (You think I’m kidding. Aren’t you cute.)
  • Not eating. I’m tired of eating. I’m tired of being hungry all the friggin’ time. I’m tired of…. oh, crap, that doesn’t go away until you’re done with the breastfeeding thing. So much for that one.
  • My brain. I miss my brain. (I think it's hanging out with the placenta at the moment.) It'll be nice getting to know it again... oh, wait. I don't get THAT back until after the breastfeeding thing either. Crap.
  • Permanent forms of birth control. (Plural entirely intentional.)

13 June 2006

The Good Stuff

So part of a comment (the one by Sarah, a.k.a. the Orangina Angel) on my Deprivation post got me thinking. It’s the part about “in defense of my native state”.

I forget, you know, that people actually are born here and like it. (Which is sorta like, really stupid of me, considering I’m married to one. (I will be SO happy when this baby is born and gets done with the whole breast feeding bit and I can have my brain back. In like, 3 to 5 years.))

Anyway, I got to thinking. I don’t hate EVERYTHING about life in Exile. There are some things that aren’t so bad. And some things I actually like.

Here they are in no particular order:

Spring. The South has the best springs of any place I’ve ever lived. Hands down. No contest. For one thing, it lasts a long time. Early to mid March things start budding out. It starts to warm up, but not too much. Days can be warmish on occasion, but nights are cool and comfortable right up until the end of May (they’re actually not too bad right now and it’s the middle of June). You can have your windows open for the better part of three months so you can listen to the peepers and birds and stuff.

And I’ve truly, truly never seen so many flowering trees in my life.

I mean, yeah, OK, other places I’ve lived have had some of the ones you see here. Crabapples in New England. Plum trees in Wyoming. Whatever those red things were in California. But south of the M-DL, they have EVERYTHING. Plum, cherry, apple, pear, dogwood. I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere that dogwood grow like they do here.

And, of course, nowhere but in The South will you find magnolia trees.

I thought I knew what a magnolia tree was. I didn’t. A magnolia “tree” in New England is a bush. It has very pretty, very large white and purple flowers in the spring. That’s what I thought a magnolia tree was.

Wrong. Magnolia trees are TREES, in the proper sense of the word. You can climb the suckers. And technically they must be evergreens of some kind – only with fat green leaves like a rhododendron that are all glossy and smooth. And they have pure white flowers as big as my head. Unbelievable.

Honeysuckle. Before I went into Exile, I always thought honeysuckle was something that some Nice Smell Scientist came up with, patented and put into bottles of body wash and bars of soap. I had no idea that it was a real thing that grows wild and makes the woods smell so good your mouth waters. Amazing stuff. I can’t wait to have a house so I can plant some and sit next to it and just breathe.

The Food. OK, I’ll never get used to macaroni and cheese being listed as a vegetable on restaurant menus, but whatever. And yeah, so most native-to-The-South food is all drowning in bacon grease and sugar and butter. So what. There’s just something satisfying about it. Broccoli casserole. Sweet potato casserole. Grits. And my all-time, absolute favorite: biscuits and gravy. Somebody stop me.

The Traffic. OK, I don’t actually like the traffic, and they desperately need some form of real public transportation here, but this one definitely falls under Things That Are Not So Bad. Some days I can go so far as to find it amusing.

Let’s just start out by saying I learned to drive in New England, so I’m used to Massachusetts drivers. People who would rather cut you off than breathe. People who wouldn’t let you in if you paid them. People who wouldn’t let their own mother in unless she paid them. (We have special terms for such folk north of the Merrimack, but that’s another story altogether.)

In contrast, 99% of the locals around here will wave to thank you for letting them merge in front of you. Wave. To thank you. It’s unreal.

Now granted, the majority can’t change lanes at all unless you give them four car lengths and a written invitation and a good proportion don’t know what a turn signal is for (you sort of have to gauge their proximity to the lane line and the level of frantic checking of the side view mirror to know that they want in). But it’s worth the hassle for the wave. I’ve been exiled here for three years and it still makes me laugh.

Y’all. Let’s face it: The South would not be The South without "y’all". And much as it still horrifies the bejeezus out of me when it pops out my mouth before I can stop it, it’s dang ol’ useful. And its advantages over its Northern cousin, "you guys", are admittedly numerous:

  • You don’t think about it when you live there and use it every day, but “you guys” can be construed as kinda sexist. Y’all doesn’t have this problem.
  • Y’all is only one syllable. (Erm, usually.)
  • Y’all can easily be used as a possessive: y’all’s. It rolls cleanly off the tongue unlike the nearly unmanageable mouthful - not to mention bizarre sounding – “you guys’s”, which more often than not comes out as [you-guys-is].
  • Y’all can even become a collective possessive: “all y’all’s”. It still rolls cleanly off the tongue and at the same time manages to be comprehensible. Neither can really be said about the “you guys” equivalent. I mean, yes, you can say “all you guys’s”, but good grief, as if “you guys’s” isn’t already hard enough to pronounce, let’s stick another syllable in there? Plus, you’ve got to sit and think about it for a good 5 seconds to figure it out (eg. Is that all you guy’s car? Huh?).

So there you have it. Stuff that ain't so bad. I'm sure there are other things as well (but for now, that's all I'm admitting to).

06 June 2006

1,000 Words a Day

1,000 words a day, 5 days a week, for the rest of your life.

That's what Carolyn See says to do if you want to be a writer. I believe her.

Now granted, that system won't work for everyone, but I can see the value in it. Because, of course, the one and only thing that makes you a better writer is writing, more writing and, when you're done with that, sit down and write some more.

1,000 words a day for me represents a quantifiable goal that I can chip away at. Sometimes it all comes out in one session where the words fly out with so little effort I wonder whether I actually wrote them or was channeling some other force. More often the words come in bits and spurts, maybe 100 at a time, and I hit my word count button after every single paragraph to see the progress (which, believe it or not, actually helps).

1,000 words a day also forces me to sit down and at least try, no matter how tired or overworked or stressed out or pregnant I may be feeling. Like now. It was an early morning (Ms. Four-Years-Old came to check on me before 6:00 AM), a hectic day at work (me and the new girl are trying to put 6 or 7 manuscripts through the ringer, plus complete other projects, during the week the bosses are on vacation), and an eventful evening (looked at yet another house and put an offer on it).

I should just go lay down and read until I fall asleep. 'Cept I can't. 'Cuz the foregoing is only 268 words, which leaves me 732 more to crank out today.

Best be gettin' to it.

05 June 2006

Squirmy Worm

I don't know WHAT it is with this child and my bladder, but she is DETERMINED to mash it with her head as much as possible before birth.

I mean, it's nifty and everything to watch her knees or feet or elbows or whatever move all over my belly, but SHEESH! I'm working under a deadline here. I have until midnight to fix up that chapter for a volunteer reader and I could REALLY do without the (additional) distraction.

Aaaaah! Where are the Depends?!?!