Saturday, February 2, 2008

That Endless War, Looking Endless

"The Democrats are waving the white flag of surrender in Iraq. As President, I will never surrender."

John McCain, today

More On The High End Offspring I'm Producing

Merrick came tearing into the kitchen, bursting with pride. Pop! Pop!

"Look at what I can do!"

Before the Matron can exhale or encourage, his pants and Batman underwear are on the floor and he hangs a rubber band on his penis, where it stays, wobbling.

Sorry, Sweetie

A gifted singer and songwriter, my husband plans to enter a talent show during an upcoming real estate convention.

Talent show? Real estate convention? Perhaps they'll serve special grape Kool-Aid during the dirge.

Before you start sending us wool socks and new underwear - John's business is going great. Turns out those progressive, populist,left-leaning Buddhist values make him a gem among the nebulous. There's always a good guy or two in the maligned professions and who better to turn to when the going's rough?

Back to the talent show. John's plan? "I'm going to write the epic realtor song."

Let's see how that's working for me---epic and realtor.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Near Miss

Remember Scarlett of the polymorphous tummy, the organ that Freud built?

Well, she suddenly sprouted eczema: angry, itchy, bloody. I play the allopathic-naturopathic Russian Roulette and this time landed the homeopath, who strongly suspected a wheat allergy.

See this? Bread is Scarlett's Secret Boyfriend Number 1 through Infinity.

For the past few weeks, she goes maybe ten minutes without some kind of wheat product and considers that mission accomplished. But then the eczema rendered her knuckles red weepy welts at the same time the tummy aches became unbearable.

Scarlett: "I'm not going to eat wheat. Ever. Stop me if I want some."

Me (truthfully): "If you beg and cry for food, I'll give you some. I can't help it."

Scarlett: "I won't beg and cry. I really really want to try to make this go away."

Me: "If you beg and cry for food, I'll give you some. I'm your mother."

The mother is also not totally convinced of the wheat-eczema-tummy connection, given the daughter's histrionic history. If you ever feel worried about your child's mental health, just click the label Scarlett and know she is aptly named.

Ever meet a three-year-old whose decision to stop pooping had real follow through? For like a month. And then did it all over again?

Now you have.

And that drama finally ended when a very wise parenting teacher advised me to ask Scarlett who was in charge of her poop, mom or Scarlett. Well. We had that all mixed up.

So . . . Scarlett went two complete days without wheat. No tummy aches! The eczema faded pale pink. Once again, homeopathy triumphed over reason (complicated, dubious, but enduring relationship with homeopathy exists here).

Then we made the mistake of going to a brothel called Bread and Chocolate for hot cocoa and cinnamon rolls.

Should an alcoholic own a liquor store? Just popped into my mind.

Scarlett sulked and pouted over her hot cocoa. The whipped cream was unsightly and the chocolate sprinkles stunk. She scowled. When Stryker bit into his cinnamon roll--steamy, soft and dripping with icing--her moan was audible.

But no crying or begging! I had thrown down that flag and was waiting its arrival.

Damn, that girl is good. She took a more passive, darker path of small puppy whimpers, inability to make eye contact and refusal of cocoa, cream and milk.

Finally, me: "Do you really want a cinnamon roll? Even if it means a tummy ache and eczema?"

Scarlett: "YES! I DON'T CARE."

Stryker (licking icing off his plate with utter lack of irony): "Scarlett, you have no self-control."

Me: "Honey, I'll be so disappointed. You've done so well!" (Freud snickers)

A short time passes while the storm clouds quicken and swell.

Finally, me: "Scarlett?"

Daughter: "I can't have a cinnamon roll because you'll be disappointed. Maybe even angry at me."


Me: "I will have no emotion whatsoever connected with what you eat. Nothing. You are 100% in charge of what goes in and out of your body and that is not related to me. I bet you can make your own good decisions by listening to your body."

Cinnamon rolls were had by all. Make mine a double.

The Matron Likes Bling

Because it makes her feel, well, less matronly. Thanks, Green Girl, for words that make this fair cheek shift red. Not so bad over there across the fence, yourself.

These shall find a permanent place on the blog, sorta like Oscars.

Sure, exactly like Oscars!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Good Art Keeps the Matron Fighting

You know how that pimply guy bagging your groceries might be writing the next great American novel? How he might actually be amazing, the real deal and all that - and waaaaay richer than you someday?


Once a week, Raw Creative Power walks into our house and gives two of our children voice and piano lessons, as if she is ordinary flesh.

And her skin is crystal clear. Some people get all the cards.

About four times a week, I click and listen to the song Falling. And cry -- because I remember and Liz captures. Falling is like the third song down on the list. Not like I'm directing.

Now for the moment the Matron nails her argument! Liz recorded this using the mic on her laptop!! Jewell has technology but Liz . . . she's that bagger, only better.

You Know Where This is Going, Girlfriend

Five years and three months ago, we bought and moved into the house we live in now.

Bonus! Even though the digs were nearly 100 years old, they included a kick-ass closet off the master bedroom ( we think it might've been a small nursery) with an amazing shoe rack--space for bountiful Shoe.

John and I very fairly divided the rack in two: half for Him and half for Her.

Today, John asked me: "How come your shoes have now taken over the entire shoe rack and my three pair are under the dresser?"

Me: "When you tell me why you, Stryker and Merrick are physically incapable of touching a toilet seat and gently moving it in a downward direction to rest on its match, I'll let you know."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lickin' My Lips Over This One

A short history of processed food and imperialism

This is hysterical, in and of itself.

But I wonder how this figures into the history of food--and American desire, on all levels. I've read The Omnivore's Dilemma and Fast Food Nation. And I've watched Super Size Me and have not so much as licked non-organic or free-range meat since watching the movie Fast Food Nation, which unforgettably personalizes the violence of the book.

As someone who's heard the words "Oh, you have cancer" not too many years after being diagnosed with not one, but two autoimmune diseases, I am a teeny tiny bit attentive to food and health.

Honey, I can hear that keyboard flutter. I'm fine. All yellow good energy and healed. It was carcinoid cancer, found during a standard pathology test after a 'routine' emergency appendectomy, if such a nonsensical exists. I'll post more about that later this week, promise. Because oh there's a story: eight month old baby, no breast pump, nurse who forgot to call the surgeon while that appendix lay bursting, lost pathology report for six weeks thus the 'oh my, cancer surprise' at another 'routine' follow-up ---not to mention the psychological complexities of that diagnosis, however positive (100% good news and never again). Look for more on this and how the wronged Matron stormed the doors of Health Care, later.

We all have good reason to be concerned about what we put into our bodies, but I am the recipient of that classic Wake Up Call(s).

Then there's my special relationship with those jeans.

Anyway. . . Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) has written a new book, In Defense of Food. I heard him on assert on NPR's Science Friday that 90% of what most Americans eat is not food! We subsist largely subsist on man-made chemicals. Guess This Childhood Treat:

Chicken breasts with rib meat, Water, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Flavors, Chicken Fat, Propylene Glycol, Water, Sunflower Oil, Artificial Flavors, Sodium Lactate, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Chicken Broth, Polysorbate 60, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Hydroxide, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean & Cottonseed Oil, Papain, Chicken Powder, & Thiamine Hydrochloride, Flavoring. Breaded with: Bleached Wheat Flour, Enriched Wheat Flour (Enriched with Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Salt, Spice, Dextrose, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate) Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Extractives of Paprika, Soybean Oil, set in Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil. Battered with: Water, Bleached Wheat Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Spices, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Soybean Oil, Onion Powder, Dextrin, Extractives of Paprika, Yellow 6, Red 40 Lake, Natural & Artificial Flavor (Including Butter Flavor), Lactic Acid, Not more than 2% Sodium Silico Aluminate added to prevent caking. Predusted With: Wheat Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Spice, Extractives of Paprika, Soybean Oil, Onion Powder, Not More Than 2% Silicon Dioxide Added to Prevent Caking. Contains: Wheat.

That's a Burger King chicken nugget, friends. Num! Progress! Technology! Let's genetically engineer water and call it a day. The video's combination of supposedly naive technological ambition and entrepreneurial pitch may very well have come to absolute fruition.

Well, thank goodness we're not trying to impose our finger-lickin' fast food ways on anyone else on the planet, hmmmmmmm?

My! The Matron can't quite shake the rant these days. She is testy. Maybe it's that one million below zero wind chill. . . . .

Graying by the Minute

There's nothing quite like watching one's 11-year old son and his best friend joyfully fly through their first electric guitar lesson--referencing Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith like Baby Boomers or Hard Rockers--to make one feel, well, Matronly.

Unless the lesson happens to be conducted by someone whom you've known since junior high, who looks accurately placed within that fifth decade of life and who exudes adolescent glee over a loud and obviously popular (but absolutely unknown to you) song called Walk on the Water -- and you are standing in the corner clutching your purse and wondering whatever happened to the Indigo Girls.

Then you feel -- ? The word 'relic' comes to mind.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More on the Matron's Issues

I love this line from a Mary Oliver poem: "What will you do with your one wild and precious life?"

Yesterday, we discussed the Matron's special relationship with a pair of very important jeans. She has other psychic black holes as well. Look at the Parental Bed! How tidy! How spare! Someone--and that would be the Matron herself--knows her way around a mop and broom. There's a pleasant firm tuck to those sheets, too.

The Matron cannot tolerate clutter. If there are piles of junk around the house--say globs of backpacks, boots, coats and shoes abandoned by the front door or a living room transformed into a fort city, complete with several large cardboard structures or days of the dreaded Science Project on the dining room table --- well, if these conditions develop (and of course, they do) the Matron's brain cells ignite and then actually abandon ship. This is a bad thing.

The Matron is inflicted with a rare and obviously untreatable condition in which her own brain sucks in the clutter around her and stops working. Focus, clarity, intellectual acumen: gone.

There can be dust bunnies. Dirt is allowed to accumulate. After all, the Matron is not entirely insane. She neither likes nor dislikes cleaning. It is simply a task that must be done. Now that the children are older, they have developed relationships with sponges, 409 and dish soap.

But clutter is another thing entirely. Junk on the floor is evil. The mangle of firetrucks, crayons, dirty socks and half-eaten apple next to the couch will eventually rise up and kill the Matron. See the expanse of space here? All that beautiful wood with nothing on the floor?! That glint you see is Happiness, raw and pure.

Alas, children shed clutter like dog hair. Drop drop drop: batman underpants, gold toe socks, bubble gum wrappers, freezie wrappers, bowls of cheetos, Samantha's Pink Party dress, book book book book, Pikachu card, yellow dump truck, matchbox police car, walkie talkie, spent batteries, unscrewed pen and accompanying contents, Spelling book, final reminder about lost library book, note from teacher, lunch box, best friend's bandanna. This is the mother of all endless lists.

Friends inquire about my day: "What did you do today, Mary?"

Me: "I moved items from where they were dropped to the place they belonged."

The Matron spends 80% of her wild, precious life moving things around her house. Floor to closet. Couch to drawer. Countertop to appropriate shelf. Stairs to coat rack. Repeat.

She often wonders why she is the only one in the entire house who seems to have this skill.

One member of the household causes the Matron particular pain. Remember dear Peanuts' Pigpen? Poor guy stood in a circle of dirt. So does Scarlett. She emits clutter like radiation. Junk flies off her and cavorts around the house.

The Matron and her daughter have engaged in some dark Freudian battles over the bracelets and leggings and bookmarks that travel in Scarlett's wake. You see, the Matron can close a bedroom door and pretend that room does not exist. This is called hoping one's untreatable and rare Clutter Brain Suck doesn't infect children and that the Matron herself is not the complete and all encompassing focus of all future theraputic needs.

The Matron's solution is to gather Scarlett's debris from around the house, put it in a pile and close the door. Look what her talented child can strew about the house in the slim hours before going to bed and leaving for school the next day. She's got game, that girl. This is a fresh pile, newly begun. When the pile gets large enough to tax the family oxygen supply, Scarlett is required to disassemble.

Incurable Clutter Brain Suck finds some relief in Pinot Noir. When this state cannot be induced, the Matron moves stuff. Book, plate, peanut butter. This wild and precious life, bound.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Matron is on a Philosophical Roll

My previous post about race has me all riled up. Actually, it's not the post so much but the statistic--I'm still in shock. Shame on us, Minnesota.

Warning: Heavy Feminist Hand Ahead

Here's a poem by Joan Larkin:

A Kiss

The hardness
with which you still hate
your body
is a kiss for the fathers.

This is old-time, down-home feminism of those bra-burning, free-loving sixties. Larkin's poems are about rape and incest. Hers was a body that suffered the worst our culture has to offer women.

But take away the word 'fathers' and I can acknowledge how very hard it is to be truly 100% comfortable in this female flesh--flesh that both traps and baits, is desired and reviled, sells and is sold.

I threw out the family scale a few months back. Actually, John did it for me because I didn't have the strength.

Do I feel liberated? Well. . . . now I have a pair of jeans that I must try on every single morning to insure they fit exactly like they did the day before.

Boy, I need all kinds of revolutions today.

The Great White North

One of the college at which I teach is the most diverse educational institution in the state. When I walk through the hallways, mine is often the only white face.

My research and writing class has 25 students: 17 are people of color.

Today I read this in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: the Citizens League projects that "of current 9th grade Minnesota students, only 3% of American Indians, 5% of Hispanics and 3% of African-Americans will get a bachelor's degree in Minnesota within 10 years."

My job?

Suddenly seems pretty important. Urgent.

These kind of statistics are what make me roll my eyes when pundits chortle and point: "Oh, oh! Barack is pulling out the race card!" Or "Hillary's got the gender card! Hillary's got the gender card!"

Recognizing that race matters isn't a game. The more we actively and overtly fight racism, the more chance those really shameful statistics change.

A rock star? Got nothin' on my gig.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Thanks, Stagwoman who gave me this "You Make My Day Award" for being a fun read!

I like awards AND attention. Yes, this made the matron happy.

Speaking of good reads, I finally got around to creating my blogroll. Check out that amazing line-up. If I've missed someone whose blog I routinely breeze through, zap me an email and I'll add you. We're all about inclusion up here in the northland.

As I wiped the technological drool off my chin while creating the blogroll (yes, it is that bad, friends), I found myself once again pondering 'blethic' or blog ethic.

Ever since I made up this word, I've been busily defining it. A good word will have nuance and depth--deployability (oooh! another good one!).

Of course, blethic refers to how I treat people on this blog: 1) only the (in)famous may be skewered but family and friends are fair game for a gentle roasting; 2) no telling someone else's story (but where yours meets mine is fair game). That's pretty simple, so far.

And then there's blethic, as in the care and feeding of the blog. A work ethic, of sorts. The blog has needs. Correspondence. Cosmetic concerns about color, texture and tone. The blog is greedy for content and can't tolerate more than a day without a little love, without being pampered and preened. And, the blog has blog role models who out-pixel and out-pace, whose verve makes the matronly prose putter and plod.

Not that I would ever compare myself to others. Or cast the critical eye on self, all that.


The other curious feature of blogging is that I have begun to think in blog posts. Any instantaneous observation or emotion immediately begins shaping into a narrative. My mind operates in blog bites. In compact summaries and amusing anecdotes.

This isn't unfamiliar territory. When I wrote my (very good but unpublished although agented and diligently shopped) second novel, I embodied Leilani, the main character whose husband and daughter are killed in a car accident. This was unpleasant for me. And everyone else. But I woke with dread, wept over Scarlett's dresses, developed transportation anxieties.

One quick digression: note the sentence above that introduces my novel. Could the matron be a tad bit insecure? Competitive? Required to self-credential from time to time?


Now that blethic's demands have been met -- post and blogroll and all that--the matron must turn her critical eye to that kitchen and the mess, therein. House and children, and all that.

Which world does she prefer, sometimes?