Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Betty Copes With the Inevitable Changes of Her Life The Only Way She Knows How: With Extended Metaphor (And Maybe A Cookie Or Two.)

Sonny Boy was leaving to go back to college after a short visit home. I tried to disguise the Mom questions I normally ask so as to reduce any chance of being seen as pathetic. “Would it help if I did a load of your laundry?” “Would you like me to make you a batch of cookies to take with you?” “Anything I can do to help you get packed up?” I watched as he efficiently loaded up his small suitcase. “No, I’ve got it, Mom,” he said in his mild, even tone.

I stood there, watching my son preparing to head back to his senior year in college. He was everything I had hoped he would be at this stage in his life: happy, determined, self-sufficient, independent, capable. However, all I wanted at that moment was to be given a Mom task. I wanted him to say, “Mom, I really need you to fold this shirt.” “Mom, I really want a batch of those molasses cookies you make.” “Mom, could you please do a load of laundry for me?”

At that moment, when he was about to leave, I needed him to need me as a mom.

Finally, he looked up and saw me still there in the doorway. My facial expression must have said it all. He motioned toward the table; “You can sort my change for me, if you want.” I nodded a little too eagerly and sat down to sort, to stack the coins into neat piles, throwing myself into the task with just a little too much zeal. Sonny Boy looked over and said, “Whoa, Mom, it’s just change, you know.”

I suddenly remembered all those times he had come to me as a little boy as I hurried to get dinner ready. “Can I help, Mommy?” he’d say. I was in a hurry. I had no time to involve him and yet, I wanted him to feel good about helping. “Yes!” I’d say. “You can sit right here and put all the spoons together and all the forks together.

Ah yes. Two similar tasks. Two similar tables. Now turned.

This transition from Active Mommy to Observer Mom is not an easy one to make.

My younger son has been expediting my training in this area. He is a senior in high school. Clingy, he is not. He makes it clear that he can handle most things that come his way. He is a good egg and we are the Teflon that he is ready to spring from when the time is right. He’ll begin his college applications soon.

I imagine this whole parenting adventure as a shopping expedition. Around ten years ago, my cart was full. It held heavy items associated with kids and school. In one corner of the basket was my full-time job. In the other corner was marriage and extended family, but in the middle was the messy, colorful, wonderfully surprising and complicated pile of parenting paraphernalia. Doctors' appointments, birthday parties, soccer practices, big spur-of-the-minute dinners with families, games, school activities, all there at the center of my life.

Yes, it was heavy and more than unwieldy at times. Yes, there were times when I got tired of pushing it and more than once I resented the work. Occasionally, a wheel would stick and I had to re-adjust everything. Occasionally, I knew important things were getting smashed and neglected at the bottom of the pile and most of the time it was my stuff, my growth, and my enjoyment.

But that pile of stuff in the middle was also pretty great.

That cart was heavy, but pushing it gave me muscles and when I leaned on the handle, I felt secure and steady. I knew who I was and what I was doing and, best of all, I knew that what I was doing had weight and importance.

Little by little, over the years, as the kids became more and more independent, the load got lighter. Hey! This is nice! I thought. I could move a little faster. I could stay a little longer at work. I started throwing a few more small items in the cart that were just for me. The boys could stay home alone while I did grocery shopping. I could actually work in a trip to the drugstore and look at make-up this time without having to hurry. Heavenly!

But then, shockingly quickly, the items in the cart got sparse. Fewer and fewer responsibilities, while sometimes good, also threw me off balance. “You can drive yourself to basketball practice? Oh, that’s right, you can.” “You want to go back-to-school shopping with your friends and not me? Oh, OK.” “You leave for college when?” When I leaned against the handle of the shopping cart, I could feel it tip back on me a little bit. I missed the heaviness, the gravity, and the ballast that my role of fully-involved, fully-needed Mom had once given me.

Now, I know they’ll always be my boys and that they’ll always need their mom in one way or another. And I am oh so grateful they are growing up and becoming independent young men.
But now I look at this big shopping cart and sigh. It’s time to fill it up.

It’s harder than you think.

If I let it, my job would spread out, take up the entire cart and have me huffing and puffing around the store. I’ve seen people who have done just that and it’s not pretty. No, my work will take up a good segment of the basket, but not all of it.

My writing, walking, baking, photography all go in there. More time with friends, more time with HOB, more time reading-- it’s all good, so why is it that I hesitate? Why do I reserve a ridiculous amount of space in the basket for a role I no longer play? Why is it so hard to give up the Mom-as-Participant role in exchange for Mom-as-Observer role? Why does my basket seem so darn empty even with all of these wonderful things in it? Why is it that I look around, linger at the doorway, waiting to be given a task?

I know this is just a transition. It’s what most moms go through at this stage. That blue light is flashing elsewhere and I’m bound to follow it, to discover new, exciting areas I’ve never been to before. I have stayed too long in one, overly-familiar department, dreading my departure from it, but I know soon it will be time to move on.




When I do make my move, and it WILL be soon, my cart will be overflowing again, just the way I like it. Then I’ll be able to lean against it, balanced once more, looking forward to the adventure ahead.

Sonny Boy was right. It’s just change, after all.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Vacation" by Rita Dove


I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.

--Rita Dove

Poetry Tuesday: "Sweet Summer Days" by Dennis Caraher

Sweet Summer Days

The summer sun is nearly done
Frost will follow soon
Asters and chrysanthemums
Light up the afternoon

The dew is on long after dawn
Mornings are a haze
One swallow's song is holding on
In these fading sweet summer days.

We flew across the ocean
Some fell into the sea
God will choose what we will lose
Though we may disagree

We come here to be mended
That we may find our way
We pray that there's redemption
In these fading sweet summer days

Summer months comfort us
The sun comes with sustenance
We live for its lingering light

Days slip away from us
Katydids and crickets hush
We drift into lengthening night.

We were once our children
Too soon they will be us
All they ask, a simple task:
"Remember how it was".

We hold them close, we let them go
We watch them fly away
And if we trust, they'll come to us
In these fading sweet summer days

Stars they are innumerable
We'll never know them all
But nature's not immutable
Every star will fall

And one day, I'll return to thee
And all that will remain
Is the beauty and the certainty
of these fading sweet summer days

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Morning With Betty

Good Monday Morning!

Hope your week is off to a good start.

I know you came here for flowers as you do every Monday morning, but I thought I'd rock your world and give you a variety of pictures instead.

Breathe deep. Remain calm. The flowers will be back.

Repeat after me: Spontaneity is good.

Your Weekly Vanity Update

Oh, my friends. The vanity still sits, out from the wall and not hooked up.

However! Betty has outwitted the clever vanity.

I decided that even if it is not going to do its job as a vanity, then the least it could do is to hold my clothing.

That's right! Ha-Ha-Ha! I have gotten the better of the vanity!

If it won't do one job, I'll make it do another!

Oh! Who's the smart one, now?

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Now let's get busy on that week out there.

(No complaining, staring or loitering, or I'll make you hold my clothing too.)

You can avoid having ulcers by adapting to the situation: If you fall in the mud puddle, check your pockets for fish.
~Author Unknown

Friday, September 24, 2010

This One Did Very Well In The Interviews

The description from the catalog:

Oh how beautiful you are! You're charming. You look gorgeous! It's fantastic. You are infinitely attractive! I think that you are fabulous, just fabulous! You are absolutely delectable. Your hair is really stunning, it sparkles with life! I love the way that you do your hair, that silken head of curls and waves is glorious......

Oh How Beautiful (You Are) is a regular, square mirror, except for the hyperbolic, relentless, and infinitely inventive compliments that cover it. Perfect for that first look at yourself in the morning.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Truckin' With Betty

I saw this truck in a parking lot the other day and it just so happened I had my camera in hand.

I thought this truck had a lot of character.
I especially love the dogloo in the back.

Hope you have a happy day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mirror, Mirror, On The Floor.

About four weeks ago I was leaning over the sink brushing my teeth, when my brain was temporarily distracted from its full enjoyment of the minty sensation in my mouth by the dripping of water on my foot. Humm, I thought. Now there’s a puzzle. The water is splashing in the sink, but somehow ending up on my foot which is tucked under the edge of the vanity.

I brushed some more, my thoughts concentrated like a marble on a tilt maze trying to make its way to what should have been an obvious conclusion and yet, it took me awhile to finally open the vanity door and discover the pool of water there on the shelf under the sink.

Long-time readers will remember the fateful day when HOB, hyped up on testosterone after putting in a window screen, saw a chunk of gunk in my sink and since he had a screwdriver in his hand decided to “help me out” by chipping away at the gunk. Instead, he plunged the screwdriver all the way through. He fixed this by putting a blob of silicone in the hole. This fix lasted for about ten months.

Call me rash and foolhardy, but I thought that perhaps the dripping water meant the time had come to get a new vanity. As most of you know, we did indeed get one and are awaiting a plumber’s services now.

Looking at the new, stately dark wood vanity, I also quickly realized that the square, silver 70’s mirror with the rusted out medicine cabinet at the bottom was going to have to go.

A friend of mine once told me she thought her bathroom mirror was nicer than other mirrors, that she had developed a relationship with it and was always surprised when other mirrors popped up to show her a different image. I thought about this and realized it was true.

This mirror I had looked into for 18 years really was the one I relied upon and trusted. After all, it saw me the most and we’d been through an awful lot together. I, well, I really thought of it as a friend. Think your mirror is cruel to you sometimes? One trip to out, for example to the mall, will convince you that your own mirror is nice in comparison.

Mirrors in department stores are bitter at having to do so much work for so little reward and no true relationship with just one special person. The mirrors at the make-up counters in these stores are not to be trusted. They each have an agenda. However, the worst are the reflective doors leading into the mall. They are not mirrors at all, but they irresponsibly play the role anyway, distorting all, knowing in the end, the person walking towards them, is the exact one they will turn their backs on as soon as he/she reaches out a hand in greeting.

And so, in the name of progress, I regretfully removed my mirror and placed in on the floor of the hallway where I plan to sit and keep doing my beauty routine in the morning while waiting on the new mirror. It did not come down easily. It took some prying. This should have been a major clue.

From the first time I sat in front of it, I could tell my mirror was not happy with its demotion.

Its displeasure showed upon my face.

Suddenly, a wrinkle appeared on my face where no wrinkle had ever appeared before. I leaned forward and rubbed the mirror at that spot, sure it was damage to its surface from the move. The wily mirror was faster than I was, and moved the wrinkle to my face again. Then it gave me a view of my neck that I had never seen before Judging by the extra skin it added and the blotchiness it included, it was really getting upset with its change in status. I just know skin tags and errant, coarse wild hairs are next, so I’ve got to move fast.

I have no choice but to seek out a new mirror now-- a trophy mirror if you will-- new, shiny, willing to have a long-term relationship with an older woman and enjoy it. It must be positive and uplifting, optimistic and polite, hanging around for years, doing its job with kindness and empathy.

Most of all, while it frames this ever-changing picture, it must never forget to seek out, find, and acknowledge the young girl I know is still there, shining through my eyes and living in my heart.

Interviews begin this weekend.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "Mirror" by Sylvia Plath


I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful –
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me.
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Morning Flowers and Vanity Update

Good Monday Morning, Betty People!

Hope you had a great weekend and are ready to face the new week with vim and vigor, with all the enthusiasm and tenacity of those nutty people who don little tiny swimming suits and jump into icy waters.

Thanks to everyone who made the trip over to Leanne's blog for my guest post. I appreciate your attendance there!

Many kind, well-meaning people have asked for an update on the vanity which HOB and I attempted to install last weekend. Oh, how we jumped into that project with the aforementioned vim and vigor! (We did not, however, wear tiny little swimming suits while doing it.) Well, this is the view of the new vanity from my bed:

It Mocks Me

You will note that it is out from the wall. The top is not attached; water does not flow from the faucets. This is because we are waiting for a plumber to come and fix some pipe problems and hook up the water to the vanity. We have left messages for two plumbers, but apparently, plumbers are not known for their promptness nor timeliness in returning calls.

So there it sits. I stare at it and it stares back at me. I hear it snicker at me as I pass by it, on my way to the sink across the house to brush my teeth. "I remain free. I am untethered. I am not enslaved by your expectations," it says in a whisper and pitch only I can hear.

Oh yes. It mocks me. I stare at it for hours, planning my revenge....

OK! Time for some cheery flowers to start off your week, don't you think?

Here's to a great week ahead!

Betty salutes you and wishes you the best!

There is no genius free from some tincture of madness.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Visiting Day

Big Shot Betty is over at Leanne's Blog today doing a guest post while Leanne and her family visit the Giant Rodent at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Get on up the virtual stairs and come and see me over at From Chaos Comes Happiness.

That's right. Just click on this little link and you'll be transported instantly to a magical wonderland. (No giant rodents there, just a heartfelt post by Betty who adores you and who expects that you will be getting up off those virtual buttocks and begin clicking any one of these handy-dandy links now.)

Happy clicking!

(There are also two painful typos in the text that I didn't catch before I sent it over! It is killing me not to be able to go in and correct them!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Betty's Lament and Potty/Punctuation Humor Too!

Betty People!!

How this whole working-for-a-living thing has gotten in the way of my blogging! I have been on the go and have not had much time to relax and visit my bogging peeps. I truly miss buzzing around the blogosphere and seeing what you've been up to. This weekend, I intend to pretty myself up, sit down at my computer, and devote myself to you entirely.

Can you handle the passion?

Alas, now I must go teach my Intermediate Composition class the proper way to use a colon. I think we should all use our colons responsibly. An improperly used colon can be embarrassing. Don't you agree?

(Can you tell Betty needs a break? Perhaps I should just join Mable on the windowseat....)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Poetry Tuesday: "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Barry

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Morning Flowers and Weekend Update

Hello My People!

Let's see.

I had 60 essays to grades, 60 student blogs to visit, and an entire section of Huckleberry Finn to review and prepare a lecture on this weekend, so what better time to tackle a home improvement project?

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that HOB and I are not exactly the do-it-yourself types. However, the sink HOB had so kindly stuck a screwdriver through about a year ago finally gave out, so we went out and got ourselves a new vanity and top. Then, drunk as skunks on YouTube videos, we decided to demo the old vanity and install the new one.

I know what you're thinking. Why would you want to get rid of this lovely piece from the 70's? Dig those hanging balls! Yes, I'll miss them. They came in very handy when re-enacting earthquake scenes. I'd just swing them and then pretend to be a newscaster at the scene, reporting, my hairbrush serving as microphone.

There's HOB cleaning up after his wife had smashed up the vanity. A few years ago one of our hamsters had found his way into the base and had been trapped for about two weeks. We found his nest and HOB was kind enough to clean it up. Betty does not handle hamster poop if she can avoid it.

According to our favorite YouTube video, the installation of the new vanity would take only 30 minutes or so. Right. We did get it moved back to its corner, but have decided to call a plumber to fix a few problems we found before completing the job. I'll post pictures when the installation is complete.

Enough of this chatter. You came here for flowers and flowers you shall have!

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it.
~Lord Acton

Friday, September 10, 2010

Playing, Reading, and Fearing Death: At The Park With Betty.

Did I mention the new playground equipment near our house comes with reading material attached?

Nothing like sprains, bruises, abrasions, or more serious injuries to add delight to any playground experience!

Oh, wait, a reminder of how other children have DIED on the same kind of equipment adds to the fun atmosphere as well.

Wonder what the warning signs on the playground equipment for adults would read?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Playin' With Betty

A new playground recently opened up at the park near us.

Apparently the families of our town are desperate for excitement and glamour.

It's been busy, busy, busy with kids ever since it opened.

Sonny Boy and I took an early morning walk awhile ago, before the crowds arrived.

We tried out some of the play equipment. It was fun!

So, since exercise is good for us and we need more of it, why aren't there any playgrounds for adults?
Think about it. Wouldn't it be fun?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Monday Morning Flowers One Day Late

Hello my people!

Thank you for all the comments on my last post.
Now that I have given up all hope of being sweet and even, with your help, have begun to embrace my salty, even pungent-at-times nature, I am delivering your flowers one day late.
You got a problem with that? Huh?

Have no fear, your flowers are as sweet as ever.
HOB and I went to a place where dahlias are grown and I had fun with my camera.
Yeah, it was a little crazy and on the edge, but that's the way we roll on these three-day weekends.

Hope you had a good one and are ready for the week ahead!

That it will never come again is what makes life sweet.
--Emily Dickinson

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sweet Betty*

Exhibit A: Just two of the many cookies I take to work each and every week to share with my co-workers, even the ones I don't really like all that much and who don't deserve any treats at all, much less cookies made by Betty's loving hands.

Sweet???? Oh, I think so.

My good friend Karen and I were riding around in her very cool mini-van, two moms careening around town, sucking down iced teas and listening to classical rock. “Isn’t Connie who runs the bookstore sweet?” I said. Karen nodded in agreement. “She is SO sweet.”

A few minutes passed in which we sang along loudly with the radio “Blaming it all on the nights on Broadway….“

“I saw Diane the other day,” Karen said. “She’s really sweet too.” I said. “Very sweet,” Karen agreed. We both nodded along with the music and in agreement. I thought for a moment and asked, “If you were describing me to someone, would you describe me as sweet?”

Karen was silent as she looked straight ahead at the road and took a long sip of her iced tea.” “Well?” I asked. “Would you?” More silence. Then she said slowly, “Um…you’re nice, but I don’t think you’d qualify as sweet.” I slammed my cup down in the holder and snapped off the radio. “Are you kidding me?’ I screeched. “I am too sweet, damn it! I am!” I said. “Haven’t you seen me do sweet things? Am I not one of the nicest people you know?” I yelled, while looking around her van for things to throw out the window if she decided not to agree with me.

She nodded, “Well, yes, you can be sweet, but you also have, well, an edge sometimes.“

Then she listened to my five-minute rant about how sweet I am while she sped rapidly to my house and squealed to a stop so I could get out after she suddenly remembered an appointment she had to get to.

I went in the house and immediately asked HOB if I was sweet. Before answering, he swore his undying love to me and stepped back several steps before confirming that, while I am a nice person, and can be kind, I would not really be classified as sweet.

I proceeded to rant again.

“That’s a good thing,” he said, putting his hands up in defense and using all of his learned verbal husband skills. “It means you have opinions and aren’t afraid to say them even if people don’t agree with you. It makes you an interesting person.” Then he suddenly remembered an appointment HE was late to.

I was not satisfied and thus I began my quest to find someone who would call me sweet.

I did not succeed.

I was called “nice.” I was called “fun.” I was even called “jolly” by some linguistically challenged friend I had backed into a corner. I was never once called “sweet.”

One person pointed out that sarcasm crept into many of my conversations. Apparently sweetness and sarcasm are not genetically linked in any way. Sweet people are not sarcastic people, this friend pointed out. I thanked him for his assessment and noted in a loud voice that actually I used irony, not sarcasm, as any idiot who knew the English language would be aware.

Amazingly, this clarification of terms did not change this person’s opinion of my personality.

It has taken me quite some time to get over this, but I am nearly ready to accept the fact that others do not see me as sweet. However, it still really burns my bacon. Why?

I think I fought so long and so hard to be classified as sweet because in the era I grew up in and the female culture, sweetness was treasured. The best thing you could be called as a little girl was sweet. The women my parents held in high regard were always considered sweet. Most importantly, as distorted as my view might have been, I’ve always considered myself to be sweet.

Apparently, there is evidence to the contrary.

Alas! Am I destined to be the rottweiler of the social world? Most of my intentions ARE sweet, but apparently my delivery is not. I may not look nor act particularly sweet but I AM, damn it! I AM! And I really don’t want to bite you and if I happen to, it’s only because you provoked me one too many times, by being a little too dull, tedious, or obnoxious.

My biting actions only serve to help you with your social skills, honey.

Hey! You know? That sounded really good! I think I may be getting this sweet thing down after all!

(*Surgeon Betty's Warning: This post contains small amounts of hyperbole, a substance that has been known to be good for you from time to time.)