Sunday, September 30, 2007

Book Review: Vegemite Vindaloo by David McMahon

It is not often I take the time to read a book. It is not because I don't enjoy reading; actually the opposite is true. However due to my admiration adoration addiction to all things fictional, suspenseful, sad, and/or beautiful, I do not make for a very civilized person when I am engrossed in a book. It is unfortunate that dishes, laundry, showering, sleep, even babies get neglected while I am reading a novel. So I have a self-imposed moratorium of fictional book reading until my family is grown or until I can afford to hire a full-time nanny, cook, and housekeeper.

But every now and then I become unfit for civilization anyway, and so locked in my room by DH, coughing, sneezing and wheezing, I pull out a good yarn. And that was the blessing I experienced this weekend. It actually began a few days back with a good start when I injured my arm and the non-stop throbbing pain, that was not even alleviated during sleep (despite borrowed prescription strength Motrin and a Lortab) gave me some time to start 'Vegemite Vindaloo' by David McMahon. It ended this weekend, when a head cold brought me to a grinding halt and I was able to flip back open the book and finish. The following is my review:

Interested in reading a book that explores cultural biases across numerous walks of life? Want to read something that will cause you to rethink everything you thought you knew about a parent's love for a child? Looking for a lesson on the culture of India? or Australia? What if I told you I had just the book for each exploration. Now what if I told you it was all the same book?

Vegemite Vindaloo by author, blogger and acclaimed writer David McMahon is more than a fictional novel. As the story unfolds, each layer reveals a deeper and deeper connection to the characters. But along the way, the reader comes face-to-face with decisions about human decisions. Is stealing to save someone's life okay? What actions are indicative of a mother's true love for her child? Do people ever fully overcome cultural stereotypes? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys: Petty street thieves? Crass pub owners?

While avoiding making any decided opinions on these and other of life's queries, David builds a story house. The author outlines the floor plan and furniture placement, the reader is left to ascertain the paint colors and throw pillow patterns.

Feeling richer for the experience, readers will come away with a deeper understanding of other cultures, as well as a new sense about some of life's toughest questions.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chivalric Burping

D2 was talking at the kitchen bar this afternoon and recited the following encounter:

"I was walking up the stairs while Hutch was walking down.
Just as he walked past me he burped.
I said, 'Eeeeew!'
And then Hutch said, 'Excuse me.'
Now there's a man that knows how to respect a woman!"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

If Life Hands You Donuts, Eat Them

In case any of my faithful blog readers are also literary agents in disguise, I thought I'd give you a sneak peek on the book I'm writing:

If Life Hands You Donuts, Eat Them (And Other Lessons Learned Growing Up in Rural America) is a narrative nonfiction containing around 24 chapters (14 are complete, the remaining are in various stages of completion). Each chapter hosts an originally titled "Life Lesson" such as "If You Can Find Your Best Foot, Put it Forward", "Boys Always Look, Sometimes They Notice", "If Someone Gives You a Load of Crap, Carpe Diem", and more. The title summarizes the short story (typically around 1000 words) that follows. All the stories are true stories from my childhood growing up in rural Iowa and Pennsylvania in the late 70's and early 80's.

As the oldest daughter of six children, raised in a conservative, modest home, many of my life experiences, while seemingly ordinary at the time have taken on a new look and deeper meaning over time.

Invariably each story lifts and builds while providing subtle humor, practical application and an enduring theme. As people read my work, I expect they will feel more connected to their own roots and quickly identify with the "Life Lessons" whether they grew up in a big city, on the coast, or in rural America.

I am excited about another chapter for my book that I completed around 6AM this morning. D3 woke up early and after I wrestled her back to sleep, I found myself wide awake with a clear writing mind.

This morning's work, is titled: "Farm Pets" is Just a Fancy Title for Food

And a few quotes from the text include:

"...We sat each afternoon on the couch back in front of the living room picture window, waiting for Daddy to come home, hoping that day would be the day he’d bring us a sick, dying, abandoned baby farm animal, that we could call our very own..."

"...As a farm girl, I knew enough about these sorts of things to realize you don’t get hamburger from pigs..."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No Time to Sudoku

I was sitting at my desk and realized this very instant that I have not done a Sudoku puzzle for at least four days. Not one!

I knew I was busy, but Holy Cajoly!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hot & Bothered

Because I cannot sit quietly when people are nonsensical, I often become more than uptight listening to Bob Lonsberry.

You've heard how I love my talk radio. And I do. After 9 AM. Because before 9 AM, at least during the hours that I am conscious, my favorite talk radio station features one of my least favorite radio show hosts.

In case you have never had the narrow experience of listening to Mr. Lonsberry, imagine someone who sees the world from his singular point of view, that is about as broad as a grain of mustard seed. And if you fall any direction outside that parameter, and how could you not, then you are in error. In a nutshell, or shall I say mustard seed, that is Bob.

But for some reason, this morning, I tuned in anyway. I dropped in on a discussion about the Mormons Exposed upcoming 2008 missionary calendar and I realized something Bob should already know. It is difficult to hold a debate on something when no one disagrees with you. And for once I even agreed, in principle anyway, with Bob.

But let me back up and fill you in, because chances are you have not heard of the soft-porn, ruckus-causing publication. Basically Mormons Exposed is a calendar featuring topless male Mormon returned missionaries. Sounds harmless to many of you, but in Mormon country, it's definitely causing a stir.

I agree this calendar is an odd enterprise within the Mormon culture. If you know Mormons, and understand their commitments to modesty, then you may appreciate the conflict. If not, then you'll have to trust me. It's a bit of a screwy concept. And I'm not just saying that because I have not yet been contacted by CMH Entertainment LLC to model for the sequel calendar Hot Mormon Moms.

But that was not my point when I dialed Bob's number on my cell phone this morning. I called him up to voice my opinion on the idea behind the calendar which applies to any product in this type of genre. Basically, men have to get over themselves and how they look because as women, we don't really care.

Now before you start arguing about how I'm screwed up or how you, your girlfriend, you sister, or your mom loves this type of junk, let me say one thing: PlayBoy outsells PlayGirl one thousand to one. The end.

It is a fact that women do not think like men. And if you are a man you probably first realized this when you were six and caught an elusive, slippery frog in the nearby pond and when you excitedly went to show it to the neighbor girl, she screamed and cried and then wouldn't even look your direction for a month.

If you are like Bob and have not had the fortune of learning that little bit of information, do so now. It will go a long way in your future relationships.

Don't forget it: Women Do Not Think Like Men. Ever.

All a man needs to do is think of how he would react to something, flip it upside down, do a 180, turn a few somersaults, jump up and down and then you'll be there or somewhere nearby. As in the vicinity of where a woman is in her thought process. But don't think that as a man you can actaully go "there" on your own. Consider yourself gymnastically challenged in this regard.

So I gave ol' Bob a jingle and he kindly put me on the air. I told him women are more complex than men. We are not as easily sexually stimulated visually like a man. We are wired differently. I proposed that if there is any market for these types of calendars among women it is largely because such thinking has been imposed on women by a male dominant society. Men like to think that women want to stare at their bodies, but we don't find it as stimulating like a man does looking at a woman.

Bob said apparently I've never seen him in his Levi 501's.

Point made perfectly. Thank you, Bob.

Oh, and a big ol' Charlie Brown, "Urrgghhh!" to you too!

If you have nothing better to do with your time the radio broadcast can be heard here. Go to Monday, September 24th and fast forward to 95% of the way to the end. (I was the second to the last caller for the day. I called in under the secret code name of "Debbie.")

If you want to read one of many credible scientific studies that backs up my statements about women and visual sexual stimulation compared to men go here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thou Shalt Have No Other Dogs Before Me


D1 is typically an early riser and more than once has presented us with stunning morning news.

When she was seven she gleefully announced at 5:30 AM on a Saturday that Chewy - the Guinea pig we had been duped into getting for "free" only a week earlier - "Had her babies!"

A few years ago, she was the first to alert us to what would be a weeks long restoration nightmare when she told us the kitchen hardwood floor had turned into a swimming pool overnight thanks to a clog in the kitchen drain.

This morning I realized D1 was up when I heard tearful, soulful moaning about her, "poor dog." Thinking that something awful must have happened to Cookie, I was terrified to hear the news. Choking in between sobs, she presented me with her latest toy that DH purchased for her at a gas station yesterday afternoon.

It used to be small dog in a dog bed. I thought its long hair made it look like a creepy mouse, but to each his own.

Apparently I was not the only one that found the gas station toy repulsive. Sometime in the night our real dog Cookie escaped from the mudroom and tracked down the creepy, mouse-dog, beloved treasure. Using her superior canine sense of smell - that is if you can count obstinate, prissy Shih Tzu's as part of the canine phylum - she embarked on a skillful game of search and destroy.

Cookie was victorious. The creepy mouse-dog never had a chance.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Inventions Take Time

The other day D2 had an earring hanging from a safety pin attached to her top.

"What is that?" I asked.

I must have had a very quizzical look on my face, because without directly answering the question, she looked down at the jewelry and simply explained, "I'm still working on some of my inventions."

I'm working on some "inventions" of my own which is crowding out my blogging time. But I'll try to continue to post and read your blogs as much as I can.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Skirting the Issue

Armed with a gift certificate from my friend Mindy, I hit the Ann Taylor Summer Sale. I brought this darling stretch twill skirt, but since I am not 5' 10" and 102 pounds it looks slightly different on me.

Nonetheless, I like it. So I wore it to church Sunday.

That evening we went to dinner at my parents' house. Shortly after arriving, my fashion oblivious father donned in a checkered western- cut shirt from Shephlers which was unbutton at the neck one too many buttons, commented, "Did you get a new skirt?"

"Er, yeah. I can't believe you noticed."

"Well of course I'd notice! You haven't worn anything that stylish in years."

Was that a compliment? Either way it is certain his head injury from 2004 is much more serious than we originally thought.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Meanest Mom Ever

Proof that I am the meanest mom in the whole wide world:

Friday 9:33 PM
The home phone rings. DH pauses the DVD for the one hundred fifty-seventh time. I answer the phone noting that the caller id indicates it is the neighbor's house where D2 is having a "late night."
Me: Hello?
D2: Can I stay here until 11?
(Remember she is only 8 years-old!?)
Me: No. We said ten. Remember?
D2: But I want to stay until 11.
Me: Sorry, no. Be home by 10.
D2: 10:30?
Me: How about 9:30?
D2: You ruin everything.
Me: Yes. That's what moms do.

Friday 10:05 PM
I call D1 on the "kids' cell." (Our children have to share a cell phone - they don't each get their own - that is how cruel we are.) We are quickly approaching the birthday party house where she has been for the past three hours.
Me: Hi, sweetie, gather your stuff we are almost there.
D1: But mom I was going to call you when I was ready.
Me: The party ended at ten, so we are coming to get you.
D1: But everyone is still here.
Me: And you won't be - in just a few minutes. Now get ready we're around the corner.

Friday 10:18 PM
D1 is playing a horrible recording of SOS by the Jonas Brothers on the "kids' cell" as we make our way back home from the party. I ask DH to turn on some real music. We listen to John Cougar Mellancamp, John Cougar, Mr. Mellancamp, Mr. Cougar, John Mellencamp, The King of Small Town Rock-n-Roll's Pink Houses at a volume level sufficient to drown out the Jonas Brothers, loud sirens, and my own thoughts until we reach our driveway.

And somehow I am optimistic enough to think my kids will grow up, leave home, and still call me every Mother's Day until at least the year 2049.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why I Can't Buy Oreos

I bought a package of Oreos yesterday. Such a vacuum of nutrition is a rare treat for our family. They were supposed to be for S1's and D1's sack lunches. (S2 and D2 eat school lunch which is delivered from various local restaurants and the menu sounds so good I wish I could dine in their cafeteria.)

Yesterday after everyone left for school (except D3, of course) at approximately 8:43 AM I purchased the package containing 36 chocolate sandwich cookies. It was not opened until sometime yesterday afternoon when the wolves children came home from school. Today at 4:18 it was completely empty. That is only part of the problem.

The real problem is the fighting discussion that ensued:

S1: Who ate all the Oreos?

D1, S2, and D2 (in perfect unison): Not me!

D1: I only had four. (And then belatedly...) Not counting the three in my lunch today.

S1 (shouting overly defensively): I had none until this afternoon. I didn't even know we had them until today! How come no one told me?

D2: But how many did you eat S2?

S2: How many did you eat? You probably ate them all.

D2: Nuh uh.

S2: You and your friends - I bet you ate a ton.

D2: We did not. We did not eat hardly any. Probably only sixteen.

S1, D1 and S2 (simultaneously): Sixteen!!!

D2: Um, not really. I mean like six or three. Hardly any.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

More of A Rule Breaker Than a Rule Maker

Free Willy was not necessarily a grand achievement in movie making. But it was probably watched by S1 as a toddler more than any other blockbuster. A classic line from that motion picture goes, "I am more of a rule breaker than a rule maker."

Those eleven words may easily be etched on DH's headstone.

It is very uncomfortable to sit by him on an airplane, for example. Inevitably he does not have his seat belt buckled before take off and will be found conducting business on his cell phone long after the instruction to turn off any portable electronic devices has been given. The repeated personal visits from the irritated flight attendants used to be embarrassing. I try to smile sweetly at their looks of, "Can't you control him any better than this?" It is all in an effort to try to convince them that I have never met this man before in my life.

More than once DH has gotten up to use the bathroom just minutes after the plane has "hit a little turbulence" and the Fasten Your Seat Belt light has been newly illuminated. I firmly believe it is not pressure on his bladder, but rather a reaction to being told what not to do that jumps him out of his seat. Of course, he is quickly escorted back to his seat by a frowning flight attendant, who wants to give me that look. Again. But I roll slowly over toward her to reveal quickly shut eyelids hoping she'll believe I fell asleep while reading a book and had no idea of his gallivanting about the airplane and rule breaking ways.

Naturally I am an avid rule follower as well as a rule maker. So I make the rules and DH breaks them. It is the perfect example of a match made in heaven.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I Don't Mean to Brag, But You Should Know That I Got a 14,000 On The SOS

Since school has begun I am once again playing the role of dumb mother. I am not really dense, but I am constantly shocked at how impaired my kids think I am. I don't think I have ever done anything to make them question my intelligence. There was one time back in 2002 that I washed a wool sweater and it shrunk to the size to fit a cabbage patch doll. And of course the incident where I put the mostly empty shampoo bottle in the dishwasher in an effort to clean it for recycling. It was difficult to hide bubbles bursting from the appliance as they uncontrollably spewed across the oak kitchen floor.

But those occurrences are very rare and are not exactly a sign of lack of wisdom. They are simple mistakes that people from all walks of life make every single day.

Nevertheless when D2 asks me to sit down and help her with 3rd grade math, inevitably she seriously questions my knowledge of the subject. And I suppose it was getting a little old. So I was completely in the right to react the way I did.

A few days ago she had to specify the season for the date of March 7, 1998. When she wrote "spring", I shook my head, "Are you sure about that?" "Yes, mom! That is what my teacher said." Which loosely translates into, no matter what you and your years of education and your bachelors degree at a terrific private school where you tested out of all basic math classes and enrolled directly into Engineering Calculus 112 think, I know and my teacher knows more than you.

But it is not like I was questioning the solution to a quadratic equation. So since two can play this power trip game I reminded D2 that back in 1986 I got 29 on the ACT and 1140 on the SAT. That I took those tests only once, one of which was taken the Saturday morning of my junior prom after staying up all night on Friday to decorate the school gymnasium. That I almost got a perfect score on the math section. And that it was entirely likely that her teacher did not do half so well on these exams, so even if D2's memory was absolute, I would still be right and her teacher would be wrong. So there. Then I stuck out my tongue for effect.

With this new information, D2 scratched her head, sunk her chin into her hand and finally scribbled "winter" after erasing "spring."

Having satisfactorily made my point, D2 did not give me any more guff as we completed the homework page. Meanwhile I sat sorrowing for betraying and insulting her teacher so early in the school year. In case you have never done so, boasting about your intelligence to an eight year-old while slamming the only adult she adores more than anyone outside the family makes you feel about as tall as bowling ball. And you really hope your eight-year old experiences some short term memory loss. And soon.

Mine, I found out, did not.

Last night we were playing Balderdash as a family. DH voted for one of my made up definitions. When it was revealed that "zinzulation" was not really a trickle shock felt when coming in contact with low voltage electricity, but actually Japanese insulation, DH exclaimed, "No way! How could anyone have come up with that!"

When I acknowledge that the fictional electrical definition was mine, D2 helped explain the mystery to DH. "You know she got a fourteen thousand on the SOS. Mommy's smart!"