Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Laundry Day Laugh

The other evening, Calyssa and I were at the laundromat in Moraga. (As much as I love our apartment, I really miss having a washer and dryer in the kitchen. But, I digress.) I was about halfway through folding the hill of clothes - when you can't do laundry but twice a month, it tends to mount up - when she informed me that she needed a restroom. Since there doesn't appear to be one at the laundromat, I directed her to the pizzeria next door and went back to folding clothes.

A few minutes later, Calyssa burst back through the door. "Mama, guess what? I made a really HUGE stinky!" she announced. There was a reasonably attractive guy at the next folding table, working his way through his clean clothes. Naturally, he heard.

"Hey, it happens," the guy says, and chuckled.

I'm glad he was such a good sport, because I was mortified. PS:
I hate that I blush so easily!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Acts of Kindness

I've been blessed recently to have been the recipient of several inexplicable acts of kindness and generosity. It all began about a month ago, when Calyssa and I were ending our annual visit to the Oregon coast. As we drove through Newport on our way out of town, I decided to pop into the Starbucks drive-thru to get a caffeine fix for the road. We placed our order as usual, but upon arriving at the pay-and-pick-up window, the barista told me that she couldn't accept my money; the man in the car before us, a complete stranger, had left $10 with her to pay for "whatever the lady and the little girl in the next car are having". I was (pleasantly) stunned. Who does that? Whoever you are, I wish I'd had the chance to thank you in person!

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Calyssa brought home a flyer inviting her to attend a week of summer camp for Deaf and hard-of-hearing children, up in the Gold Country. My first thought: no way can we afford this. Then I took a closer look. Run by the Lions Club, I read that this camp costs families just $30. I immediately called to see if this was a typo. No, it's not; Calyssa is in fact now looking forward to attending a week of "Deaf camp" and I'm thrilled and humbled.

The most recent incident of kindness was just this week. I frequently attend a SEE sign language class offered by the school district at no cost to caregivers of kids in the Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing program. As I helped the instructor, an interpreter at the high school, stack chairs after class, she offered to continue giving me lessons over the summer on a one-on-one basis. Again, I gratefully accept, but at the same time feel so abashed at the offer.

Money is always tight in a single-parent household, especially when the child has special needs. Calyssa and I live paycheck-to-paycheck, but I do try to keep room in the budget for some fun and special things. Perhaps in a feeble attempt to assuage my guilt at being unable to tithe, as a proper Presbyterian ought, I visit the Red Cross blood bank every two to three weeks to donate platelets. I happily volunteer at church and at Calyssa's school. In general I find it easier to donate time than money to my favorite worthy causes. I don't know why it's so hard to think myself a worthy recipient of donated time and kindnesses. Then again, the concept of salvation through unearned grace has always been the part of my faith I most struggle with, so I suppose it shouldn't come as such a big surprise that learning to accept blessings is such a challenge for me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


In the course of any given month, I play several different roles. I've been pondering this quite a bit today, as I realized that various titles append to my electronic correspondence. Perhaps the most obvious is "Mommy to Calyssa", which, not coincidentally, is my Twitter ID. But there's also "the Encore accounts person", "the choir librarian", "the Bible study snack coordinator", "the Daisy Scouts registrar", even "the Westwood PFC Box Tops coordinator". Half a dozen 8- and 9-year old girls know me as their "AWANA leader". Earlier today I enthusiastically accepted another; the precise title is to be determined, but it's coming.

But, as I was carrying on a text conversation with a new-ish friend today, he referred to me as a writer. I don't feel comfortable calling myself a writer. I can use any of the above titles freely because I can prove their suitability. But since writing is as yet strictly an avocation, in the words of the Smiths, "you just haven't earned it yet, baby".

Not to minimize the others in any way, but the only one that really matters (okay, besides "Mommy", which I wear proudly), that goes soul-deep, is "writer". Why is it that I feel so unworthy of a title I covet as much as this one? Must I have demonstrable evidence that I am justified in calling myself a "writer", and, if so, what would qualify as that evidence? A rejection letter, or better yet, a sale? Holding the first copy of my (book, magazine, tract, fill-in-the-blank) in my hands? I don't have any answers, but I'm going to change my profile here, right this minute, so that "writer" appears first, and I guess we'll see if I'll survive or if something shall smite me in my sleep...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

S.A.D., much?

The thing about January is, it's such an anticlimax. Seriously, way to kick off a newly minted year with a gigantic letdown. The past five weeks or so have been such an amazing whirl of gaiety, I could hardly catch my breath, let alone cadge a decent night's sleep. Now? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing but merciless January, leaving me pondering my shortcomings, moping over what I did NOT accomplish in the year just completed. Did I lose the weight? A few pounds, perhaps, but not nearly enough to make a dent. Did I travel? Sure: all the way to Orange County. Did I write? Lamentably little.

January is what I imagine the next day feels like to a runner who has just completed their first marathon. Wow, I just did what I set out to do, and, I even have the t-shirt to prove it. Now what? Keep in shape for the next one? I already know I can do it, but I'll never really be a contender, so what's the point?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not normally a dismal person. "A Cockeyed Optimist" could've been written about me. But, faced with sodden January, I'd just as soon roll over and play dead. Winter has only just begun; spring, my favorite time of year, seems an age away. I'm grateful to whomever it was that introduced the mid-80s legislation that made MLK Day a national holiday; I think of it rather as a recovering heroin addict might look at a dose of methadone: an oasis in the desert of misery, whose sole purpose is to boost you from one place to the next.

January is so blah, even the Super Bowl abandoned it, in favor of the blessedly truncated February. (By the way, I'm convinced that February is so short because Pope Gregory knew that we'd all turn suicidal if we had to endure it for even one day more.) By the end of February, I've thrown my traditional Oscar-watching party. Spring seems mere moments from announcing its arrival. Why can't the New Year begin in March? Doesn't it seem more apropos to begin a New Year with the promise of renewed life that spring delivers, rather than the dreariness that is January?

So as this week, this month, this year draws to it close, I shall be dreading the miasma about to envelop me. See it? There it is, skulking in the background...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Uniquely Me (Clean Version)

In each of us are myriad experiences, facts, opinions, issues, and countless other aspects that make us unique. We are thus an amalgam. Here, in no particular order (a stream of consciousness, perhaps), are several things that make me different from you:

I detest Brussels sprouts, but I love asparagus, spinach, and broccoli.

I can't imagine how this could ever happen, but, should I ever be on death row and ordering my final meal, two friends of mine will be receiving phone calls: Steve for his kale, and Lynette for her artichoke dip.

I can't get through the day without a dose of vitamins R.E.M.

My antidote to a lousy mood: listening to "Laid" by James. Works every time.

I consider shoes optional most of the time. It's a good thing I work at a place where bare feet are acceptable.

When I do have to wear shoes, I prefer Birkenstocks.

The only bones I've ever broken are my toes. How? I dropped a manhole cover on my foot when I was in 8th grade. (Don't ask. Suffice it to say that it's lucky for me that I did have shoes on that day.)

Despite my father's constant attempts to convert me to the "dark side", I am still a liberal Democrat.

I am militant about recycling.

When I was little, I wanted to be an oceanographer when I grew up.

When I got a bit older, I decided I wanted to be a teacher of the deaf, so I did an internship in a summer-school program for deaf kids. That experience showed me that I definitely did NOT have what it takes to teach deaf kids.

Isn't it funny how life turns out? Now I am the Mommy of a deaf kid...which definitely makes me a teacher of a deaf kid, by avocation if not by occupation.

I was contacted by a C.I.A. recruiter in my senior year of high school, and gave serious thought to it.

I entered university as a poli sci major, but switched to language when my first professor urged me to enter a competitive honors program through Johns Hopkins. (It was only my third week at UC, and I couldn't picture spending my entire life as an academic.)

I have studied eight spoken languages, in addition to sign. All are European.

Many students spend a year studying abroad. In my relentless quest to be unconventional, I spent my sophomore year in Spain, rather than the more typical junior year.

Upon my return to the States, I went goth, refusing to wear anything other than black for an entire year.

My favorite day of the year is the one on which I first spot a daffodil close to blooming, because it means spring is near.

Running a close second is Academy Awards Sunday, which is a national holiday as far as I'm concerned and ought to be celebrated accordingly.

Ranked third favorite is the fourth Sunday in Advent, which at WCPC is known as "Hallelujah Chorus Sunday".

I rarely bring my music folder into the chancel when choir sings, because I prefer to memorize my part. Ironic, because I am the choir librarian, that I am the choir member least likely to have their music handy on Sunday morning.

I can recite, in order, the names of all 66 books of the Bible, plus the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical books.

I have always wanted to learn to play drums. Should The Smiths ever reunite, I'd like to be prepared to volunteer as guest drummer.

I was a prospective contestant for College Jeopardy. I was eliminated in one of the final rounds; I had the opportunity to do a mock round on-stage. (It's a really tiny set, incidentally; at least, it was then!)

I want to try out for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

I had crushes on three different guys in three years spent at Northgate High School. As adults, every single one of those guys is gay.

Between mine and Calyssa's activities, we are so busy that I rarely get more than five hours' sleep per night. I am, therefore, chronically sleep-deprived.

I'm really good at undoing knots.

The American Red Cross loves me because I have, to date, donated in excess of twelve gallons of blood platelets.

I was born in a Minnesota snowstorm.

I slept through two tornadoes. My dad just carried me to our "safe room", AKA the downstairs shower. I'm still annoyed that I missed them, so I have a great desire to storm-chase in my dotage.

I can never stop thinking. Even when I want to, I can't seem to turn it off.

I once spent the night in a cell at Alcatraz Penitentiary...

...but I've never been arrested.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Papa Shoes

Not far from Calyssa's school, along the route we take on the return trip, lies Gesinee's Bridal Shop. (CoCoCounty residents: ANYONE know how that is supposed to be pronounced?) As we left the Westwood Parent-Faculty Club meeting the other night, we passed it. As per usual, Calyssa craned her neck to admire the bridal and bridesmaids' gowns in the showcase windows as we waited at the traffic light. This sparked an interesting conversation.
"Mommy, I want to have a dress like that someday," she said. (While I'm not quite sure which dress she meant, this was not exactly a huge surprise, coming from the girliest tomboy ever born.) "What was yours like, Mommy?"
"You've seen it, it's in my closet. Remember? I told you I never got to wear it," I replied. Sad, but true: Calyssa's daddy and I ended up running off to Vegas to wed at a drive-up window, in tank tops and shorts. No joke. But I digress...
"I saw a picture at Papa's house. Auntie Jodi looked beautiful," she told me. I knew she must've been referring to the portrait of my sister, the bride, and her husband, with our parents, taken right after their gorgeous Placerville winery ceremony about 12 years ago. My dad keeps it on the bookcase.
Calyssa went on to describe the photo at length, finishing with, "Papa had on a funny suit [tuxedo]. He looked 'zactly like Papa, 'cept he had more hair and didn't have his Papa shoes on."
That got my attention. "What are Papa shoes?" I inquired, confused.
"The ones by the door. He puts them on when we water the plants. You know, his Papa shoes," she insisted.
I rang my dad up later to relate this little story to him; as expected, he cracked up. We agreed that, henceforth, cheap slip-on deck shoes are to be known as Papa shoes.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Yesterday was Halloween...to most of the kids in this corner of the world, anyway. To my daughter, 10/31 is the eve of the eve of her birthday. Besides, Halloween is becoming much like Christmas: by the time the actual holiDAY rolls around, it's been celebrated to death. Calyssa attended a Halloween sleepover on Saturday the 23rd, at gymnastics, where she was also able to wear a costume all week if she wished. Friday was the costume parade at school, where the kids were trading "ghost pops" throughout the week. She even was given some candy at church on Sunday morning!

This was our Halloween: following a little after-lunch nap, I woke her and told her that it was time to get her costume on so that we could go trick-or-treating at Broadway Plaza. "I don't want to go, Mommy," she whined. It took some cajoling on my part (!?!?!) to get her to dressed to go. She only relented after I permitted her to replace the bridal veil of her princess bride costume with the pink Geoffrey's Birthday Club crown she received at Toys 'R" Us earlier in the day. After one pass up one side on Broadway and down the other, which took maybe 15 minutes, she proclaimed, "I'm done."
Bizarre! Walking in the door less than an hour after we'd left, she ate one piece of candy and immediately proceeded to shed her costume in favor of her pj's. "You don't want to go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood?" I asked. "No, I want to watch Aladdin," she replied.

I spent Halloween night on the floor in front of the television, sorting and packaging Box Tops for Education for submission. Final score: Giants=4, Texas Rangers=0,
Box Tops=2770, Trick-or-Treaters=1.