Say What?


My second daughter can actually pronounce that. It's Welsh. And it's a real place in Wales.

Yesterday at the Folklife Festival there was a woman who was teaching people how to speak Welsh. In the less-than-fifteen minutes that my daughter listened to her, she got the pronunciation down pat. A real gift for Welsh. Me? Not so much.

Here's your Welsh lesson in less than a minute. The LL in Welsh has no equivalent in English. Position your tongue in your mouth as if you were going to make an L sound. Then blow air around your tongue. Better yet, get someone who knows how to do it show you.

We learned the translation. "The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio's of the red cave" We also learned that folks usually abbreviate it to LlanfairPG.


Million Collar Babies

My last official duty as a Girl Scout leader is coming up in two days. A trip to Savannah, Georgia, with 17 people. After seven years as the leader of a Junior Girl Scout troop, it's time to pass the mantle. (I just stayed at the same troop level and the girls would move to a Cadette troop as they aged out of Juniors replaced by girls moving up from Brownies.)

Looking back over my tenure and remembering all the girls that have been in my troop reminds me of just how much we did through the years. Beach camping twice, amusement parks twice, camping in the woods at least ten times, ice skating five times, skiing seven times, horseback riding once, New York City once, getting people to vote twice, participating in parades five times, etc. etc. etc. Even though I'm totally burned out on being a Girl Scout leader, after thinking about all the things we did together I feel like George Bailey.

Every trip we took, the girls were required to drop off their gear at my house at a "packing party" before the actual departure day. Even though we don't leave for Savannah until Saturday morning, tonight is the packing party. There's nothing worse than getting to our destination and a girl telling me she can't find her shirt.

"Didn't you follow the packing list when you packed your gear?"

"My mom packed for me."

"Is this your trip or your mom's trip?"

With so many people wearing identical albeit different sized shirts, I just hope the moms put names in the collars as they should. I don't even want to think about the post-trip lost-and-found.


We Did It

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past month, you know what's been going on in Iran since their election. Iran blames the U.S. and Britain for the demonstrations and unrest. In my book, it's all America's fault.

Not that we have CIA operatives stirring things up. But that we are the ones who made it possible for the Iranians themselves to stay in touch with each other and the world, no matter how hard the Iranian government tries to stop them.

I'm talking about cellphones, Facebook, and Twitter. All of those technologies utilize good old American inventions like the Internet and GPS which were made available to the citizens of the world thanks to the ingenuity of Americans. So bring on the accusations of American instigation. The 2009 Summer of Iranian Unrest, brought to you by the American people.


Lose Weight Will Sleeping

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD). That's my diagnosis. It's similar to Restless Leg Syndrome but much different. "PLMD is characterized by involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep that typically occur every 10 to 60 seconds, sometimes throughout the night. The symptoms cause repeated awakening and severely disrupted sleep. Unlike RLS, the movements caused by PLMD are involuntary - people have no control over them. " So says the NIH information on PLMD. It's a neurological disorder but nothing along the lines of a brain tumor or other more hypochondrical disease.

My doctor said I had 15 of these movements a minute. That's one every four seconds. No wonder I'm so tired during the day. With that much moving around during the night, I'm getting more than my fair share of exercise while I sleep.

The Wait

The nurse called with the results of the sleep study. She said it’s basically a neurologic problem and the doctor wants to see me. The appointment is for 1:30 today. Stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel.


Let's Go Fly a Light

Saturday mornings are meant for sleeping late, not being awoken with the phone ringing at 5:15 a.m. Our phone announced the incoming party’s name, the parents of our second daughter’s best friend. The friend wasn’t at home and the parents didn’t know where she was. The father called to find out if she was with our daughter. Which she wasn’t. First thought in my mind, “Oh, no, not another runaway!”

In the past month, my eldest daughter’s friend ran away from home. The police came to our house to interview both of the teenagers about if they knew of the girl’s whereabouts. Which they didn’t. The girl finally surfaced five days later at a friend’s house.

Just for the record, I’m a terrible mother, according to some of the comments I hear third-hand from parents of my daughters’ friends. Some of the terrible things I do:

*Allowing the kids to choose, once they’ve been confirmed, whether to go to church with us (unless they’re on the schedule to acolyte, in which case it’s non-negotiable)

*Allowing my middle daughter to wear shorts and skirts to school which the other parents think are too short
*Allowing my children to get their learner’s permits without tying the privilege to a certain level of grades
*Allowing my teenagers to take public transportation and/or walk all over the city to shop, eat, and watch movies
*Teaching my children at a young age about human reproduction
*Telling my young teenagers about oral sex
*Offering my children wine with meals at home and tastes of other alcoholic drinks when their father or I order them in a restaurant

But in my defense, my children

*Won’t have a resentful attitude about church as adults
*Will have a respect for alcohol and know their limits before getting to university and the “real world”
*Understand that sex is a normal part of life and, as girls, won’t allow a boy to insist on certain activities without a reciprocation on his part
*Call adults Mr. and Mrs. rather than by their first names as a sign of respect and the boundary between childhood and adulthood
*Know that our home is a haven, a safe-place, not only for them but for their friends as well

Once I insisted that my eldest daughter sit in on an adult education lecture at church. The lecturer was a young female chaplain from the local church-run school. She described the differences in parents by comparing us to tractor beams (à la Star Trek) or lighthouses.

Parents who insist that their children do and say and think and act the way the parent wants the child to are like tractor beams, pulling the child into them. This action is enough in drive the children away or to make the child rebel in ways harmful to the child. Not what we should be striving for.

But lighthouses weren’t designed to draw anyone TO them. If a ship goes TO the lighthouse, it crashes on the rocks. Lighthouses are designed to show ships the way to safety by keeping them away from danger. Parents should strive to show their children the dangers that exist and let the children go. My eldest daughter now refers to herself as the lighthouse to her friends. She’s proud of that fact, but understands that it’s a huge responsibility for someone her age.

Even though some parents may think I’m too lax with my rules, I know to pick my battles. I do have street cred with my children, as when I kept our eldest from going on an exchange program because she didn’t keep up her end of the bargain which was an improvement in her grades. (She’s now taking four AP classes and going on a different exchange trip.) And the middle daughter (who infamously was thrown out of the church children’s choir and was asked to leave the church youth group) knows what it’s like to live under house arrest. (The jury’s still out on whether she’s a lighthouse to her friends, but I suspect she might be heading that direction.) I’m just saving the big guns for the big infractions.

As for the friend whose parents woke us at an ungodly hour on Saturday, she is safe at home. I bet she’s grounded for life. And while I don’t want to cast allegations on the parents involved since they are friends of my husband’s and mine, rather than having a helicopter parent the girl needs a lighthouse parent.


Mouth by South East

The youth minister at our parish is an extroverted, somewhat handsome, funny-as-hell, irreverent but religious, hopefully soon-to-be seminarian, 27-year-old man from the Atlantic coast of Georgia. And this man is taking the senior high youths to the Dominican Republic for a week in August on a mission trip. All eleven girls and ONE boy. Heaven help us.

The planning session was last night. My middle daughter, her friend, one of the adult chaperones and the youth minister were the last ones there when I arrived to drive the two girls home. After much ragging on the youth minister about his girlfriend-of-the-season and the possibility of using a waxing of his thick chest hair as a fund raiser for the mission trip, it was time to get the girls home to study for their finals.

As my daughter got in the driver’s seat to pull the car away from the telephone pole so her friend and I could open the passenger door, the youth minister, who followed us out, was throwing wadded-up paper balls at my daughter which she promptly threw back at him. She smartly rolled up her window so he couldn’t get the paper ball in her lap anymore. But that only provoked him to mark the window with an imprint of his open mouth. Right at eye level.

Until I can get outside with the Windex, I have to drive around with our youth minister’s mouth print staring me in the face. I think we need a chaperone for the chaperone.


Are You There, God, Well Leave Me Alone

The gods are conspiring against me. And I feel like I’m living that Rembrandt’s song, you know the one, the Friend’s theme song. “When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year…”

Somehow another of those days rolled around yesterday bringing with it such wondrous experiences as:

Underestimating how long it would take at the grocery store so that the groceries had to sit in the trunk of the car during my noontime doctor’s appointment. At least there wasn’t any ice cream, although there were meat, eggs, butter, milk, etc.

Remembering after unpacking the groceries that I hadn’t eaten lunch and that the piano teacher was coming tonight. Since she really helped out last week on my day trip to New York City, I needed to buy a card.

Realizing after stopping at the bank, the card store, and McDonald’s that the car needed gas.

Misjudging the driveway curb on the way into the gas station so that on closer inspection while gassing up I discovered the front passenger tire was flat with a huge gash from where the curb cut into it.

Finding out that the owner’s manual wasn’t in the glove compartment so I had no way of knowing how to loosen the jack from its housing in the trunk.

Phoning everyone I knew to call for help and finding no one available so that I considered driving home with a pancake tire.

Eating my cold McDonald's lunch in the car while waiting for help. (Already after 3:00 by now.)

Having my husband (finally off his client call) bring the manual and actually help change the tire so that I didn’t have to pay a tow truck.

Seeing that the spare tire was flat and that the gas station where I was didn’t have an air pump.

Driving ever so carefully and slowly across the six-point intersection to a gas station with an air pump so that I could make it home.

Hearing from my second daughter when I was almost home that she wanted a ride home because she cleaned out her locker today.

Arriving home with the need for a good cry, a long soak in the Jacuzzi, a bourbon, or a combination of any or all of the aforementioned.

As one friend told me, this is God’s retribution for leaving my home state. I always knew my home state was God’s country, but this is ridiculous.


A Bathroom Stall Built for Two

How embarrassing!

Last night every room in the house was occupied with kids and noise. With my husband working late and my pain meds’ keeping me from anything very productive like my PTA or Girl Scout paperwork or finishing the next chapter in my latest book, mindless online puzzles were the way to go. After finishing three puzzles within ten minutes, my attention turned to something even more mindless in hopes of putting me to sleep for the night. Online quizzes.

According to those scientific gems of personality discernment, I am 15% Bitchy, 12% Girly, if I were a Green Army Man, I’d be the Machine-Gun Soldier, I’m attracted to both good boys and bad boys, my true zodiac sign is Leo (which it actually is), my ideal mate is an Aries or a Gemini, and, here’s the shocker, guess where I should have sex next? (Yeah, I know, it’s a weird quiz but, hey, the TV had been commandeered by the kids.)

A Public Bathroom! I’m sorry, I always considered myself more of a Carrie than a Samantha.


I'm Gonna Shoot that Rooster

Insomnia is a b*tch. Actually, it’s the caffeine that they snuck into my afternoon supposedly decaf latte. Whatever the cause, the effect is the same. The inability to sleep until it’s time to get up.

Anybody willing to deal some of their Ambien?


Going Brown

Our household wasn't one of the first to jump on the environmental bandwagon. Plastic bags continued to bring the groceries into the kitchen. Incandescent bulbs illuminated the night. Cars made the trips to the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient. Until the economy changed all that.

Grocery stores began offering discounts for every reusable bag used to carry your purchases home. CFLs used less electricity, thereby reducing the monthly power bill. And gas prices soared to new heights making walking to the store or doing without the better options. Until living the Green life changed all that.

Fact Number One: I'm cheap! I was using the plastic and paper-inside-plastic bags as trash bags around the house. Since the kids are responsible for taking out the trash, complaints were rampant when there were no liners to carry out to the big garbage can. It also meant that the person in charge of the monthly cleaning of the interior trash cans (moi) had a harder time getting them clean. And I wasn't about to spend money on trash bags when I could reuse the ones from the grocery store for free.

Fact Number Two: I like bright rooms. Even with second generation CFLs, the quality of the light they give off is far too far behind my adored incandescent bulbs. Even though I spent beaucoup money to switch out all the bulbs in the living room, I hated the way they took so long to warm up. And the light they gave off was too harsh for actual living in the living room. The usurper bulbs have now been replaced.

Fact Number Three: It's not that I'm lazy, just feeling the effects of age. Gas prices went back down. Okay, okay, they're up again from a few months ago. But overall, they're down from last summer. We didn't fork over the money for a Prius. But we did give our very old station wagon to the Salvation Army in favor of a very non-Mom car with better gas mileage. Now driving to the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient or even to Starbucks just because is a treat. Not because I'm no longer in an older model gas-guzzling station wagon, but because I have two teenagers who beg to drive me anywhere to get the experience under their belts.

But we're not all Brown again. The computers and chargers still get unplugged when not in use. Curtains and windows are used to control the room temperature as much as the thermostat. And my husband still rides his motorcycle to work (over 60 mpg city!). Like today, the annual Ride to Work Day.


Curious Georgia

Am I crazy to take my Girl Scout troop of fourth and fifth grade girls to Savannah for five days? Three years ago, the troop of fourth, fifth and sixth grade girls went to New York City for four days and had a blast. It's more bravery than insanity. Well, maybe a combination of the two.

At last night's end-of-the-year Leaders' Meeting, one volunteer (who is celebrating her 50th year in Girl Scouts) reminded the group that for the longest time the city of Savannah didn't like the Girl Scout troops coming to visit the Birthplace because the citizens thought the Girl Scouts were too rowdy. (Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, lived and began the first Girl Scout troop in Savannah. Her house, known as the Birthplace, offers programs for troops and is also open to the public for tours.)

The Birthplace closed for renovations for a while and guess what? The tourist dollars vanished. When the Birthplace reopened, the city was much more inviting to Girl Scouts, welcoming us with open arms, even catering to us with tour packages created specifically for Girl Scouts.

It's funny how powerful the Almighty Dollar can be. I guess money can buy happiness, or at least acceptance.


Mr. Zuckerberg, Tear Down that Website

This is not a recruitment ad but a sobering view of hatred. The picture was taken from James von Brunn's website. He's the man who walked into the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, yesterday and fatally shot a security guard for the sole reason that the security guard was black and working at the Holocaust Museum. The shooter claimed to be a World War II veteran. Perhaps he was.

Many of you have read before about my favorite World War II veteran. A man who landed in Normandy on D-plus-14. Who told stories of the sky glowing orange on three sides from the fighting - the fourth side being the blackness of the Channel. A man who helped liberate a camp in Austria and was in charge of delousing the Russian POWs. Whose stories were first-hand accounts of the tragedy known as the Holocaust. Whose stories were scrubbed clean to become my bedtime stories as a child - of being separated from his unit in France, guarding the tanks during a hot summer night, attending Christmas service with a French family who invited him to eat with them.

How hatred develops is easy to understand. Perceived slights and indignities, one's feeling of entitlement not being supported by all around, grudges left to fester. But it's also learned. And quite frequently at an early age. One way of reaching younger and more impressionable people is through Facebook.

Facebook won't take down the Holocaust denier pages claiming that they are expressions of free speech, however ignorant. There's a fine line between free speech and Big Brother. We can't become like Iran which shutters access to websites, like Facebook, that the government considers to be a threat. Yet, there are stories from here in America of local government tyrants doing the same thing because certain online threads are undermining their credibility. But where can we draw the line?

What about people who declare that Dr. Tiller should die for his actions and someone following through on that? What about musicians who shout to the world about forcibly putting women in their place? What about people who claim the Holocaust never happened?

Any threat, verbal or written, against the President is perceived as real and investigated. All citizens should be given that same chance of survival. Whether an individual, like Dr. Tiller, or a group, such as Jews, and African-Americans, and Muslims, and Christians. For we've all been victims, at one time or another, of persecution and hatred and bigotry and ignorance.


Caught in a Blind

I’m going blind. Blind, I tell you! A good friend told me that it happens at 40. Forty came, and went. (And don’t ask me how old I am. I won’t tell you. A woman who tells you her age will tell you anything.) But my eyesight was still pretty good, except for the nearsightedness brought on during law school.

But now! Just last night, going through a backlog of 2,485 emails (don’t ask), one caught my eye, “Key Music Group for Great Knees.” As a dancer, knees are very important. And as a dancer, music is again very important. My thoughts, when clicking on the link to the article, were of finding a new band’s tunes to download to my iPod for dancing.

Boy, was I surprised when I clicked on the article and began reading! There was nothing about music or bands or anything like that. Just information on building up your quads. Back to the email to make sure I clicked the correct link. Yep. Same article came up.

I was about to chalk it up as a bad bit of editing on the part of the writers. Until a closer look at the title destroyed any pretense of superiority. My eyes squinted at the screen,

“Key Muscle Group for Great Knees”

Blind, I tell you, blind!


It's a Wonderful Day for a Moonbounce

When adolescents and preteens don their swimsuits on a two-story inflatable water slide on the grounds of the Seminary, you know it's time for the annual parish picnic. As in years past, we tend to self-segregate. The families with younger kids tend to gather in one area; the families with teenagers and college kids gather in another area; older couples and singles gather in yet another area. Yet again, for the umpteenth year, we spread our blanket with the same two families.

Along with the water slide, the jazz band, the popcorn machine, the snow cone machine, and the moonbounce all made their return. Plenty of fried chicken to go around, even if all the breasts and legs were gone in a heartbeat. Perhaps someone needs to genetically alter chickens so that they have eight breasts and legs and only two wings and thighs.

In past years, our rector's wife used her husband as a fund-raising opportunity by encouraging parishioners to put in money to get the rector to go down the water slide in his collar. But she passed away from skin cancer almost a year ago exactly leaving her husband with three sons. So the only adults on the water slide this year were the fathers with children too small to slide on their own but who still wanted to join the big kids.

There is one big kid in the parish. He's actually the youth minister. A good-looking single guy not yet 30. He was impressed that our second daughter, mad at him for making her leave youth group once, maintained her cold-shoulder treatment of him for two weeks. Most youths who threaten never to speak to him again only last an hour or two. But at heart, he's still a kid himself.

Case in point... He was standing at our blanket talking to the second daughter, her best friend, and me when, all of a sudden, he started running for the moonbounce, my daughter and her BFF fast on his heels. He lead the two teenage girls into the moonbounce which was full of five- to seven-year-old boys. Squeals erupted from inside as they, presumably, caused said youngsters to bounce wildly up and down. By the time I reached the moonbounce, the youth minister had organized all the kids to try to roll the moonbounce by running from one side to another as if on a ship. Thank goodness it was anchored to the ground at all four corners!

Watching my daughter bounce around inside made me want to climb inside myself. But for the fact that I was wearing a skirt and there were too many other parents keeping watch on their kids, I just might have. Maybe next year. After all, next year is another moonbounce.


The Naming of Kids

Maybe I should name my children. After all these years, they aren't walking around nameless, answering only to calls of "Hey, you." But in the blogosphere, they haven't been referred to as anything except Child or Daughter. Until now!

So by order of the grand poo bah of this blog, affectionately known around these off-line parts as the Empress of the World, I dub thee, in birth order:


I give you their blog names so as to avoid future confusion whenever I write about them. Like the following...

The other day, after seeing Maeve onto her school bus, the preschooler from across the street spied Finola walking to the corner to catch her school bus.

Preschooler: Look, Mommy. There goes Maeve's teenager.


To Sleep; Perchance to ... Zzzz

Did you see "Lost in Translation"? That Sophia Coppola movie with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Remember in the movie how they both were suffering from insomnia?

My sleep cycle is such that my doctor ordered a sleep study. Sleeping in a strange bed is quite difficult. Try sleeping in a strange bed, with a noisy air conditioner, and wires attached all over your head, face, and body. There was what felt like almost an hour of trying to get to sleep. Then the what-felt-like an hour of: waking up, deciding a trip to the restroom would help, trying to get the technicians attention to unhook me, and then trying to get back to sleep.

The technician woke me first to remove the wires because, of all the people spending the night, I was in the shallowest sleep. Arrgh!!! That was at 5:00 a. frickin' m. That makes less than five hours of sleep.

While the technician was removing the wires, he said that I didn't snore. What a relief! But he said that he knew why I didn't sleep. Why? He couldn't tell me because he's not an M.D. Great. Another wait for the doctor to tell me what's going on. While I'm waiting, a little nap would feel so good. Where's Bill Murray when you need him?


There He Was, Just a-Swimmin' in the Pool

Going to a gym can be as much entertainment as it is exercise. On the main exercise floor are the gym rats. Don't forget about the older ladies in silent competition.

Yesterday's vigorous session on the stationary bike and pirouette practice in the studio was followed by a relaxing stretching session. But what followed the stretching topped everything. As I rounded the corner from the stretching area to head back to the locker room, there was a gaggle of women peering through the windows which overlook the pool. What in heaven's name could draw such attention?

A quick look and... Oh, well, then, that explains it! The pool was overrun with men!

The women began to critique each and every one. I stood silent, taking in their comments and judging the validity of those comments for myself. Until it dawned on me that we were doing the exact same thing that men get called on the rug for - objectifying them. Down the the locker room I went.

But passing the window and the women on my way out, I couldn't help but steal one last look. If only I could whistle.


All the World's a Chair

The curtain rises on the third act of the Noël Coward play to a round of applause for the aesthetically deco set design of 1930s New York City. It’s all black and silver and gray and white and polished and mirrored. The illusion of the play is almost complete. Until my eyes fall upon two chairs with asymmetrically curved backs.

If you’re not familiar with “Design for Living”, it’s a silken comedy centering around the lives and loves of Gilda, Leo, and Otto. Act I – Gilda is living with Leo’s best friend Otto in a Parisian walkup with chipped plaster and grimy tilt-out windows. Leo is the now-successful playwright, Otto the struggling painter, Gilda the muse. It’s made known that Leo spent the night with Gilda while Otto was away. Act II – Gilda is living with Leo in a London flat with marbled columns and a maid. Otto returns, a successful painter who has been living in New York. While Leo is away, Otto spends the night with Gilda. But then runs off with Ernest, another mutual but much older friend. Act III – Gilda is married to Ernest when Leo and Otto both return and jointly demand Gilda return to them. Not to one or the other, but to both of them, jointly.

What I’m leaving out is the overt homosexuality that closes Act II as Leo and Otto decide they belong together since neither one can have Gilda. It’s the classic love-triangle in which, at the end, everyone wins.

The daughter of the prop manager of the theatre is my eldest daughter’s best friend. We’ve been to their house on numerous occasions. So as the curtain rises at the beginning of Act III, I recognize those two chairs from the prop manager’s own living room. Just reupholstered. And as the characters talk about the furnishings of the apartment being for sale, I can’t help but wonder what the date will be for this year’s backstage sale of props and costumes. That lime green deco dress in Act III would be the coolest outfit for my husband’s office Christmas party.


Playing Catch-Up

Wow! Excuse my negligence. There are some things that need to be addressed before getting around to other blog ideas.

First off... the answers to the Oldies Music Quiz.

1. Happy Together - The Turtles
2. Turn, Turn - The Byrds
3. Gee - The Crows
4. In-A-Godda-Da-Vida - Iron Butterfly
5. Last Train To Clarksville - The Monkees
6. Day Tripper - The Beatles
7. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood - The Animals
8. The Still of the Night - Whitesnake
9. You’re So Fine - The Falcons
10. I Only Have Eyes for You - The Flamingoes

Now... to answer another burning question. About the Yankee Dime. What is it? Here's the definition: noun. A kiss, origin: A kiss costs nothing, and unscrupulous (i.e., all) Yankees won't part with their dimes, example: "I can't give you a cent for that flower, honey child, but I'll gladly give you a Yankee dime."

That wraps up all those questions swimming around in the backs of your minds. So, until next time, have some Yankee dimes... XX.