Friday, May 26, 2006

Procrastination Aids: Poetic Form

I am the tanka.
The attention of others
Is unnerving, and
Since I try not to draw it,
I'm left alone. Which is good.
What Poetry Form Are You?

Compliments of Jennifer.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Quote: On Meaning Inherent in Things

Things are saturated with significance. Meaning does not have to be injected into a story like juice injected into a cooked turkey. Things themselves are translucent with meaning, like paper translucent from grease. In poor houses on the frontier where people couldn't afford glass, the windows were paper rubbed with fat. The light streamed in, as did the winter cold and the summer heat, and everything was seen in that light, the light of the paper window, just the way that now, when we think of people living with great poverty and endurance, all we need to do is imagine a paper window: meaning glows in the thing.

...Meaning is trapped in the
what of things. Meaning is held in the web of things like honey held in a comb, or a soap film held in a hoop, or a bundle of the sun's radiant energy held in the very green of chlorophyll. There is a physics of significance.

---Bonnie Friedman
in Writing Past Dark

The Vacuum Saga

Last year to celebrate our tax refund, I bought a new vacuum. Actually, I took our old, non-working vaccum into a shop to have it fixed and was accosted by Sid the Vacuum Salesman, who also owns the shop. Sid's Method of Operation is to look at one's old vacuum while tsking and then to tell one regretfully what a piece of worthless junk it is and why one should buy a Riccar vacuum. I have seen him in action with several customers, pushing 30 pound vacuums on little old ladies who came in to get a lightweight floor sweeper to accomodate their arthritis. Sid likes to interrupt; he doesn't like eye contact; and he tries to speak very fast, which is difficult because he stutters. Now, I don't begrudge Sid his stutter at all. What I DO object to is interruption and condescension, both of which Sid does in abundance. (Sometime I shall tell The Tale of the Sewing Machine Repair, too. But I digress and will begin to snarl.) After hearing Sid's snide comments about our old vacuum and his sung praises of the Riccar vacuum he was so determined to sell me, I shook him off and went home to do a little Web research. Lo and behold, the Riccar had excellent, excellent consumer reviews. Somewhat grudgingly, I went back and purchased one.

This year I took the still perfectly performing Riccar in for its free yearly maintenance, as prescribed by the service policy in the owner's manual. Sid wasn't in, but the young lady in the shop said she'd have it ready for me in 30 minutes. I was relieved. Marshfield is an hour's worth of driving (round trip) from our house, and with gas prices, I really wasn't wanting to have to leave it and come back another day. I poked around in the scrapbooking shop next door for 30 minutes, went back to Sid's, picked up the vacuum and returned home. The next time I attempted to use it, I discovered the beater bar no longer worked at all, and the floor/carpeting switch was not only jammed but had a huge gouge. I was not a happy camper.

I returned to the shop asking to talk to Sid and was told he wasn't in. I went home muttering under my breath. I waited a couple of days and called. I was told when he would be in. I returned. He was absent. I returned home again, breathing out fiery and intricate plots for using the beater bar in ways that would most certainly void the warranty. When the inner conflagration died down enough that my nostrils were merely wisping bits of smoke, I called once more and was assured that Sid was always in on Saturdays. I laid my plans accordingly.

You must understand that I am not a person who likes conflict. I don't like being angry with people. I don't want to hurt people. I don't want to damage relationships. I wanted to strangle Sid and his shopgirl with the powercord, yes, but I wanted to do it in a NICE way, mind you, a way that would assure their thinking well of me while they rubbed the scars on their throats, and above all, a way that would insure my being able to continue thinking well of myself. (I am not always a very nice person. Yes, I know this. What I do not understand is why that can be so satisfying.) Knowing I was torn between wanting to be kind and wanting to flay Sid alive with onboard attachments, I prayed on the half hour trip to the shop, prayed that the confrontation would be calm, that I would not lose my temper (because I am unable to speak at ALL when I become extremely angry--I cry, which considerably diminishes one's ability to be intimidating), and that I would come home with a fixed vacuum cleaner and not have to make another trip.

That evening when I returned home, I was able to write the following in my journal.

Today the vacuum saga came to a most satisfactory close. I took the Riccar in and found the shop crowded, Sid "helping" another woman, telling her what was wrong with her vacuum and doing his darnedest to sell her a Riccar. She looked up at me and my vacuum (which had "Riccar" emblazoned across its front), smiled and asked, "Is that a Riccar that you have?"

"Yes it is," I replied quietly.

She walked over to me to look at both my vacuum and the other Riccars on display, over which Sid was still making enthusiastic and encouraging salesman noises.

"And do you like it?"

"I do," I answered, and seeing the heavens open and the perfect opportunity descending from the skies, I took it. "I love this vacuum very much," I said earnestly. "It does a very good job, an excellent job." I let woe cloud my face, dropped my eyes and shook my head regretfully, "The problem I've had is with the service."

There was a beat of dead silence, during which the lady's eyes widened first with concern and then with a glint of amusement as she turned to Sid, her eyebrows raised. "Oh, really?" she asked, still smiling.

Sid was at my side in a moment and had my Riccar upside down against the counter with a screwdriver opening it up before I could finish answering his very courteous questions about what the problem had been. He had it fixed and ready to go in 3 minutes.

I feel a little guilty about the satisfaction and amusement I took (and am continuing to take) from Sid's tight spot there in the shop. Not nearly guilty enough, most likely, though, as it isn't enough to keep me from enjoying it in remembrance. Upon my arrival home and the hearing of the tale, Great Scott said, his grin reminiscent of Alice's Chesire Cat, "You are a wickie, wickie woman!" The fact that this was uttered with obvious admiration did nothing to shame me, I have to admit.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

You Know You Live in the Ozarks When...

1. Your twelve year-old daughter comes home from Safety Day at school with a package of goodies that contain ear plugs (for using when shooting a gun or running heavy farm machinery), scads of fliers on West Nile Virus, brochures from a farmers' life insurance company and a Buck knife catalogue.

2. Regardless of how hard you work to correct her, your nine year-old pronounces "hundred" as "hunnerd."

3. The 'possums walk back and forth under the porch swing late at night while you're sitting out enjoying the quiet. If you put out cat food, you can pet them.

4. Your elderly neighbor shows up asking if you'd like a turkey if he gets one this season, and then tells you if he sees one out of season, he'll bring that by, too.

5. He does this because you stopped last month to see if you could help him get his wayward cow back in the field (and off the road), and he's appreciative.

6. Rain falls steadily in your front yard, but the sky in your back yard is perfectly clear.

7. You begin finding ticks in February and March.

8. You are captured in conversation with an intense kindergartener who tells you more about running a hog operation than most adults could ever begin to imagine. And much more than you really wanted to know.

9. Your grandmother and your father both kept skunks as pets when they were kids.

10. Every morning when you open your eyes and look out the window, you are certain there is no more beautiful place on earth.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mother's Day Gift

 Posted by Picasa

Yes. It is indeed a Jane Austin action figure. I am blessed with the best family ever.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Everybody knows that a good mother gives her children a feeling of trust and stability. She is their earth. She is the one they can count on for the things that matter most of all. She is their food and their bed and the extra blanket when it grows cold in the night; she is their warmth and their health and their shelter; she is the one they want to be near when they cry. She is the only person in the whole world in a whole lifetime who can be these things to her children. There is no substitute for her. Somehow even her clothes feel different to her children's hands from anybody else's clothes. Only to touch her skirt or her sleeve makes a troubled child feel better.

---Katharine Butler Hathaway

I do not remember ever feeling this way about my mother. Her personality and mine were so distinctly different that I rarely, if ever, felt the blissful connection between mother and child that is so highly lauded in our society. She loved ruffles and ribbons and layers of lace; I abhorred scratchy, itchy, dresses. She was highly emotional and very expressive; I was highly reflective and extremely reserved. She dressed me in bright red as often as possible; I loved blues and greens. She seemed to live for church activities and get-togethers; I despised Vacation Bible School. She went to nearly every school activity in which I was ever involved; I craved my own space. In short, she was (and is) an extravert's extravert, and I am a dyed in the wool introvert. The things that to her were the epitome of comfort and joy were nothing short of trial and torment to me, and our relationship was considerably rocky for a long time because of it. There were other rather pronounced difficulties, oh yes. Still, even those were exacerbated by her natural affinity for living in the outer world and my rather plain-spoken distain for it, by my bone-deep need to dwell first in the depths of a quiet inner world and (what seemed to me) her oblivion and utter disregard for that at all. For years she kept battering away at the walls I'd purposely built to keep her at a "safe" distance, never really seeming to understand that her efforts only necessitated thicker walls. For years I battled anger, bitterness and, yes, hatred--of her and myself both--as well as guilt that she would never be the mother I was sure I'd needed, and I could never be the daughter she wanted.

I forswore motherhood altogether by the time I was eleven or twelve and felt no small relief in doing so. Already by then I was investing much of my identity in my thought life and academic achievements and interests. No children would mean more time to read, more time to devote to writing. Also, already struggling with depression, I reasoned my decision would spare whatever children I might have had, from life itself, which I considered to be very little short of misery incarnate. My mind was made up. My life would be my own, and I would not use it to create and be part of the tearing apart of someone else's.

Then I met Great Scott, and somehow, I ended up with two daughters who think I am the be-all, end-all of motherhood, an unlikely and unlooked-for grace, for certain.

Our twelve year-old gave me a hand written card this morning thanking me for being there for her "in troubled times" (she's beginning to hit the high hormone stage, and we spent some time drying tears after bedtime last night), and our newly nine year-old's card expressed her hope to someday "be like" me (a thought that causes sheer terror to rise in my throat, I assure you). I know that adolescence may bring more troubled times. Already the mothers of my older daughter's friends compare notes about difficult attitudes and increasing relational struggles. I'm bracing myself, but so far I'm nothing but touched and humbled by our girl's (by both our girls') love and regard, a love and regard for and in a relationship with which I've had no former experience and which, in truth, I could never deserve.

And my relationship with my own mother now? Improved. No bitterness; no hatred. I learned to express and enforce some of the boundaries I need in ways that acknowledge her good intentions and affirm her for them while still holding my ground. She began to recognize that my need for space isn't an indication of rejection, and assured of this, she seems to have less need to push. That's been a good starting point. It's made all the difference. We laugh now about things that would have been cause for dissension in the past: "When I'm old," she told my sister a couple of years ago, "I'm coming to live with you. Cindy would make me behave!" It's one of my favorite stories.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Procrastination Aids: Ok! Ok! You told me so!

My brother-in-law and his very significant other have told me for nearly a year now that I remind them of Elizabeth Bennett, especially as she is portrayed in the A&E production of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. Today my dear pseudo-sister-in-law sent me a quizzlet. Guess what. :)

Which Jane Austen Character Are You?

You are Eliza Bennett from Pride and Prejudice! Yay, you! Perhaps the brightest and best character in all of English literature, you are intelligent, lively, lovely-- in short, you are the best of company. Your only foibles are that you stick with your first impressions... and your family is quite intolerable.
Take this quiz!