Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
It’s been Project Declutter 2010 around here the past week. Betty has been obsessively ridding the house of excessive objects, ruthlessly tearing through closets and cupboards and stuffing STUFF into bags and boxes destined for the Goodwill.
Yesterday, I ended up in the spare room where we have a lot of books left behind by my college-aged son. Looking at these books, I can trace the years of his life. Mixed in with Hop on Pop and The Rainbow Fish are Major Problems in California History and Sustainable Community Development--books from his first three years of college. His entire collection of Redwall books that he read in grade school fill up an entire shelf as do the classics he read in high school. I considered which he would be willing to let go of.
I texted him, “OK to get rid of your Redwall books?” His text came back quickly, “NO!” I suggested other titles. “No! Don’t get rid of any of my books!” he urgently texted. I had to smile. That boy is a reader, a lover of books. Just like his mother.
Just like I had planned.
I raised two boys in a house littered with books. Literally from their births, I shoved books under their noses. I read to each boy, devoting time at night to story after story. I took them to the library with big bags to fill and made up cozy little nooks at home where they could take their bounty and devour it.
We had books everywhere—in the car, in the bathroom, in the kitchen. Half of the time there were books tucked in the folds of the comforters of their beds, like fish in waves, to accompany them to their world of dreams.
When I saw that Evan, my younger son, was not enthusiastic about reading, I took up the cause with even more zeal, reading to him, leaving a story off mid-action, hoping he would beg for more. I stacked his shelves full of books. I enrolled him in incentive-based summer reading programs. I imposed a 30 minute required reading in the evening. He was interested in sports, so I got him books about sports. When I found he liked an author, I got him more of that author’s books.
Still, he resisted. I ruled out a learning disability. In fact, his reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills were all great. He could read. He just didn’t want to read. This was inconceivable to me and I refused to give up.
I wheedled. I pled. I bribed. I warned.
Then one day, when he was a sophomore in high school, as I was yapping at him about the subject of reading, I caught a look on his face that changed me forever. The message coming out of my mouth was the same as always: that reading was important. However, when I looked in his eyes, I realized the message he was receiving was “You are not good enough because you are not a reader.”
It brought tears to my eyes.
So, that’s when I backed off. Yes, I still buy him books and nonchalantly leave them on his desk. Yes, I hand him magazine articles to look at, and look for essays I think he might be interested in, but I don’t hover over him or ask him if he's read them.
I now recognize that his interests, his passions are different from my own. He loves the world of film, of videos, of music, of expressing himself through rapping. (Yes, rapping.) In fact, he recently won a video/rap contest in which the prize was a professional microphone.
I am happy to say that the winning of this microphone did, in part, exactly what I had been trying to do for years. It immediately drove him to go to the bookshelf in his room! Yes!
He went straight to his bookcase full of all those books I had piled up all those years. He ran his fingers over all of them, looking at each one, thinking, considering…. before he plucked each from the shelves and…boxed them up to move to another location.
He took that bookcase, turned it to face a corner, attached a door, and drilled a hole through the back to pass wires through for his microphone. Then he took the egg crate foam off his bed and stapled it to the inside to make a soundproof booth for future recordings. He and his friends spend a lot of time trying out their beats and rhymes inside the booth. I hear them in his room as I pass by and I smile.
He is happy. He is smart. He is incredibly talented.
He is teaching me new things every day.
Just like the universe planned.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Betty would never drag her readers through another post about her computer woes, so instead we are going to have story time!!!
Please gather round as Auntie Betty spins a tale of intrigue and surprise just for you!
Now Mac was an excellent computer and was faithful and good to his owner. (We’ll call her Ytteb.) Mac organized Ytteb’s photographs and essays and gladly went to the giant box store called Google, and stopped by Amazon to get Betty whatever she needed in Computerland. Mac was also very, very useful in maintaining Ytteb’s fine blog, “Yssob Ytteb.” Best of all, Mac also collected Ytteb’s mail from three different post offices.
Ytteb loved Mac and Mac loved Ytteb.
Then, one day Ytteb noticed something was terribly wrong. While Mac was very happy to go out and fetch mail from the other two post offices, he froze up when it was time to go to the one called AOL. Time after time, Ytteb urged Mac to go get the mail, and though Mac would go to the doors, and give the magic password needed to get in the post office, he would not go in and get Ytteb’s mail.
Hummmm…thought Ytteb. This was not like her Little Mac at all. She contacted the workers at AOL and they said they knew and liked Mac and had absolutely no idea why Mac refused to go in. They were open, they said and would welcome Mac at any time.
It was time for professional help, so Ytteb took Mac to the doctor who was a genius. He looked over Mac, poked and prodded and there in the doctor’s office, Mac worked! When the genius told Mac to go get the mail, he went right into that post office and collected it!
Yttteb took Mac home and smiled as she sent him on his way to the AOL post office. However, there at Betty’s house, Mac STILL refused to go in! Why? Ytteb was beside herself. She took little Mac back to another genius. This one probed Mac’s psyche a little more thoroughly, pushed some buttons (as this type of doctor often does) and once again pronounced Mac healthy.
Now, just about this time one of Ytteb’s friends called and said her little Mac would not go to a site that she asked him to go to. Then another friend called with the same news! Then, a friend who lived in a pretty house high on a hill said that her Mac didn’t have that problem and invited Ytteb up to check it out. Ytteb took her Little Mac to visit, and there, he worked like a champ! He scurried to AOL and got the mail! He was happy and free once again1
“Hummm…” said Ytteb’s friend. Who is your Little Mac’s teacher? You know, the one who watches over his comings and going and teaches him which paths to take out in the Internet?”
“Oh!” said Ytteb, “I have hired the best teacher for my Little Mac. She is a very large and popular one. She helps Mac find his way around the complicated Internet. She costs a lot of money, but she is one of the best teachers I know of. She’s very fast too. In fact, I just signed her up for two years. Her first name is Verizon and her last name is Fios. Do you have the same caretaker for your Mac?”
“Oh no,” said the friend. “I have Uncle Time Warner. He’s not that fast, but he takes care of my Mac’s paths just fine. Don’t look now,” she said, glancing at Mac’s screen, “but he’s helping your Little Mac RIGHT NOW.”
Ytteb went right home and called her friends with troubled Macs and they said they too had hired the very popular Verizon Fios.
Ytteb called the very large and busy teacher who denied it was her problem. In fact, she was SHOCKED that Ytteb would even think that she was responsible for telling Little Mac not to go to AOL. She said she helped many, many little Macs and they were all happy under her care. She finally consented to “write up a ticket” but also had the nerve to suggest that Ytteb’s Little Mac might just be the problem after all. She suggested he needed yet another visit to the doctor.
Ytteb hung up, patted Little Mac on the back waited and then, two days later, it happened! Little Mac went and picked up the mail at AOL. Yeah! Ytteb called her friends and they were getting into their sites again too! Hurrah! Hurrah! Apparently Verizon Fios had finally examined her directions to all the Macs under her care and had adjusted her instructions.
That night, Betty apologized to Little Mac and let him suck on his juice all night instead of making him wait for morning. He awoke, all charged up and ready to go anywhere Betty wanted him to.
The moral of the story? Always back your Little Mac.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Ah, the possibility
of the uncut tree
all the blank pages it holds
the unwritten words that
will carve their way
The unopened gifts of morning
the untrammeled untraveled
the ground still wet
or fresh with snow
I love the sunrise
for its seductive rays
inching themselves across
inviting darkness out of corners
as night recedes
leaving the day smooth and untracked
like tide-soothed sands along the shore
I stand above the city
as the slow light
a dull glow in the face of fog.
The sun is up
and day begins to settle
subtle and persevering
above the sparkling bay.
Below, the highway stretches
itself tight across the terrain.
The cars making their daily journeys
glisten with the possibility of changing
taking the wrong exit
to the left or right
How does one leave
without leaving behind?
How can I write the words
and let the tree stand?
Where does the dew go dry to
as the sun peels off the ordinariness of it all?
What will this day reveal?
What will the sun let fall?
Monday, July 26, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Everybody needs a movie friend.
You know, that person who knows a whole lot more than you know about movies, actors, directors, and the movie biz. My go-to movie buddy is Jim. I call him up whenever I have a question or need to have a mini-rant about a movie I have just seen.
Now, Jim is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to films and the details involved, and I am sure he would really enjoy a conversation in which I ask a decent question such as “What are some hallmarks of the movies of Martin Scorsese?” or “How did you interpret the symbolism of the bird in Citizen Kane?” or “Could you please compare and contrast the heroines of the movies of the 40’s and those of today?”
Oh yes, he would love questions like that. Instead he gets questions like this from me: “What’s with all these characters walking in a straight line coming at the camera? Can't directors just give that up already? or “My God, they could have stuck push pins in the face of that lead actress. What’s the deal with her plastic surgery?” or “I got a hideous rash from one of the theater seats. Has that ever happened to you?”
Just the other night I called with a mini-rant on the movie, Cyrus that I had just seen with friends. Now, before we go on, let me just say that if Betty is going to park herself in a seat for two hours and be subjected to people around her munching on popcorn (I swear some of those people have tiny microphones embedded in their molars) then the movie needs to be good. However, being vaguely aware of social norms, I also don’t want to be the complainer of the group and go on and on about how bad a movie was when others in the group seem to like it.
So I went to see Cyrus with some of the same gal pals I had gone to see Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with. Now, I had totally misunderstood what THAT movie was going to be about and had assumed, from the title that it would be similar to The Girl With the Pearl Earring. You know, a type of art restoration film. Well, it wasn’t and after the movie I stood in the lobby wide-eyed and shaken at all the violence in the film. I just wanted to go home, bathe, and take a sleeping medication that would wipe out all traces of the film.
Even though I did not say anything, I think the gal pals all could sense my reaction. (I find that as I age, I am losing control over my facial expressions.) Anyway, after Cyrus, I didn’t want to stand around and nit-pick over the movie with the gals, fearing they would never ask me to go to another movie, so I said my goodbyes and went home and called Jim.
Movie buffs are great, but Jim is the best kind of movie buff. He knows his stuff but will not dispense his stuff unless you ask him to. Dreamy, right? No one wants to take the unwrapped candy from the bowl on the desk of the employee who is a bit too eager to dispense the candy. Jim is not a Candy Bowl. Jim is a Generous Vending Machine. You simply insert your question or questions and he dispenses information and gives his opinion if you ask for it. He is generous, but in a way that fills you up, not out.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t always agree with Mr. Movie. We nearly had a knockdown, drag-out over Knocked Up, but what I love about my movie friend is that he is listens to my ¾ rant ¼ question and then (sometimes after a stunned pause) will discuss the issue with me. Last night I wanted to discuss the sin of dragging out scenes that did not need to be dragged out. I felt insulted about twenty times in Cyrus because I thought the directors were keeping the camera on a scene as if to drill in some sort of point. I wanted to yell, “I’ve got it! Let’s move on, already!”
(Sorry! Did I get off on a little tangent there? I thought I had gotten that out of my system.)
Back to my thesis: I don’t mean to make Jim sound like a one-trick pony. He isn’t. He’s more than just my movie friend. We’ve discussed just about every life issue under the sun and seen each other through some major life transitions. However, it is pretty cool having him as my movie friend, someone I can call to get the story of the making of a movie or a point of view.
On my first attempt to call him the other night, I couldn’t reach Jim and I was antsy. I needed to talk to him about this movie. I had the same reaction I have when I can’t find my glasses. I can make do without them, but I also really love the way they help me to see things. Details come into focus and I just feel more centered, and yes, smarter. I guess in the grand scheme of life, that’s what friends in general do for each other.
(Oh yeah, and I have him on speed dial just in case I am ever on a game show and need to answer an obscure movie question. Helping a friend win a million dollars or a shiny new car is also what a friend does.)
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
You know Betty does not like to complain.
Oh no. She does not. She was born to pioneer, Church of the Brethren, depression-era parents who had an amazing ability to ignore details that would detract from the daily details of life.
That twister headed our way is no excuse for you not to go to the hastily built and incredibly rickety hen house and get the eggs.
Stand up straight. No whining. You’re not hurt. Losing blood from that giant gash on your leg is actually good for you. Go stand on the grass if you’re going to insist on bleeding that much and as long as you're out there, pull those weeds that need to be pulled.
I think you get the idea.
So, yesterday started off like any other day. The bluebirds landed on my shoulders as I flung open my shutters and greeted the day. I danced into get my lovely Apple computer and opened it. In the corner of the screen was a notice for a software update. It was jumping up and down, waiting to be noticed, so I clicked on it, and let it do its thing. However, after that, I found I was unable to access AOL through Safari or through Firefox. Everything else worked, but since AOL is the e-mail account I check first thing every morning I began to fixate on this fact.
Now, having a computer problem is bad and worthy of some angst, but, really, this problem should not have thrown me off like it did. I ignored everything else and just kept trying to fix the problem. I checked Evan's computer and AOL was working on it. I read my mail there, but I still felt compelled to fix the problem on my own computer.
I stewed. I pushed buttons. I updated things that didn't even need to be updated. I installed another browser. I harassed both children to help me. I generally ignored all other parts of my life.
This went on for hours. I KNEW it was not rational, but I wouldn’t let it go. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I pretended to talk to friends and be interested in what they had to say, but in the back of my mind I was still fixating on this problem. I still had Google Mail. I still had access to my blog. It was just one e-mail account. Rationally, I knew I should move on, but I couldn’t.
When I was small, my grandfather developed some sort of growth on his forehead, right between his eyes. At first, it didn’t really bother me, even when it got rather large. I just took it as part of who he was and then one day, I caught a glimpse of it from the side and I stopped, wide-eyed to observe the doorknob shaped protuberance in the middle of his forehead and then, well, from then on, that’s all I could see. I nearly developed crossed eyes staring at it. He had stark white hair and I began to wonder if he was turning into a unicorn. I examined it whenever I could, waiting, waiting for the tip of the horn to appear.
Yesterday, my computer problem turned into a giant knob on my head. I could feel it growing throughout the day, there in the forefront of my life. It consumed me.
I have a date with the Genius Bar today. Hopefully one of the geniuses will be able to fix the problem and snap me out of this. I mean, really. It’s getting ridiculous.
It worries me that I may be losing the ability to keep things in perspective. Is it just a matter of time before I become the Delta Dawn of our town?
Am I destined to be the old woman who is on the cruise ship, under the table searching for her lost french fry on the red shag rug the entire time the all-you -can-eat buffet is in effect and the major cites of the Caribbean are in view from the Lido Deck?
Do you, my dear readers, ever become fixated in this way? Does your rational mind tell your possessed mind to come off the precipice and come have a nice meal, a cool drink and just relax? Does it work?
My date with the Genius Bar is coming up soon.
I gotta go fix my bangs. They’ve got a big job to do today.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Potato, sojourner north, first sprung
from the flanks of volcanoes, plainspoken kin
to bright chili and deadly nightshade,
sleek eggplant and hairy tobacco,
we could live on you alone if we had to,
and scorched-earth marauders never bothered you much.
I love you because your body's a stem,
your eyes sprout, and you're not in the Bible,
and if we did not eat your strength,
you'd drive it up, into a flower.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
It sounded simple enough.
We had stuff in Kansas we needed to get back. We wanted a small truck anyway.
We’d fly to Kansas, buy a small truck and drive back to California.
We bought those one-way airplane tickets.
Then we started researching.
We needed a truck that met California emission standards. Guess where those are sold? California! Weird, huh? Apparently, to bring a truck purchased in another state up to CA standards costs a snoot-full of money.
Then there were the registration costs and sales taxes. You have to pay those in both states.
Yikes. Big bucks.
We e-mailed car dealerships in Kansas. No trucks up to CA emission standards. No way to get around the registration/sales tax thing.
We went to dealerships here to see if they could help. No go.
However, at one dealership, a salesman said, “Well, you could buy a truck here and then you could have it shipped to Kansas on a flatbed truck.” I turned to him and said, “That’s just silly.”
However, my very smart brother-in-law urged us to check it out. Then he found us a truck to buy near Los Angeles. We went down, dealt with the car salesman, and bought the truck.
HOB took over finding a shipper for the truck. Let’s just say it was not pretty. When we left for Kansas there was no truck on its way and no commitment from any trucking company.
However, at the airport in Dallas on July 1, HOB got a call from a trucking company. They could pick it up that day. Hurrah! A friend of ours met the trucker, gave him the cash and handed over the truck and key.
HOB and Evan left Kansas on July 4th. My sister came and got me. We played for about five hours and then we got word the truck with the truck was in town.
It was drizzling as the large truck pulled in and my sister and I sat and watched as the driver, a large Russian man with a thick accent maneuvered the giant truck into the parking lot and unloaded a Subaru in order to get to our truck off.
I went to say good-bye to the driver and he said to me in a thick Russian accent, “I am going to be needing a favor from you, ” he said, picking up a very large block of wood and holding it in front of me.
Quickly, my mind whipped together a concoction of thoughts combining every bad movie ever made with the very current national Russian spy incident. I looked back at my sister, who had not moved from her van.
“That Subaru I had to move to get your truck has no breaks. I am going to lose it for sure. I need you to slam this piece of wood behind the rear tire when I get it on the truck again,” he said.
What was a girl to do? I looked around the nearly deserted, wet parking lot, and took the big stick. I looked back at my sister with wide eyes as she looked at me with even wider eyes. I waited for him to drive up the slanted platform, heard him yell “Now!” and then slammed the big stick under the tire.
The driver started chaining the Subaru in place and I said good-bye to my sister, and drove off in the truck. Since I had not really had a chance to drive the truck in CA, I had to quickly find the wipers and lights and get used to it. I drove slowly through the streets and five minutes later a policeman pulled me over.
We still had the dealer tags on the car, but apparently the registration sticker was not in the right place for Kansas’s law enforcement officials. He was nice about it, suggested I move the sticker and sent me on my way.
My plan was to load up the truck and use bungee cords, ropes and a tarp to keep everything where it should be. My sister was going to be with me the first two days and I announced to her that we would be unloading the truck nightly and carrying everything into the hotel room. She was not exactly excited about this.
Finally, the constant rain and the plan to stop in Las Vegas on the way back convinced me I needed a topper for the truck. Unfortunately this dawned on me the day before I planned to leave.
I was going to be in Kansas City for one of E’s doctor’s appointments so I sent out an alert to the sisters and they found a place in Kansas City where I could get one installed quickly. It turned out to be a great decision AND they even took my picture with the truck for their web site. Yeah, baby. I wish they all could be California Girls.
2008 Ford Ranger: $14, 500.
Shipping Ford Ranger from Kansas to California: $950.00
Topper for Ranger: $995.00
Diet Cokes with Lime from Sonic for driver of Ranger throughout the trip: $30.00
Driving down the highway, heading for home: Priceless.