Miley Cyrus: “You’re the grown up; you’re supposed to tell me what to do!”

Hannah MontanaThe blogosphere is in an uproar, and not because the guy who sang Achy Breaky Heart is (still) famous. I don’t know that much about Miley Cyrus, beyond the fact that she has a hit show on Disney, Hannah Montana, and an IMAX movie that mega-outsold U2’s recent IMAX movie (at least at our local planetarium), which is plenty of reason right there to mistrust her. One has to be negotiating with dark forces to upstage Bono. I think she also sells clothes at Walmart, or maybe that is Mary Kate and Ashley.

At first I wondered why Rocks in My Dryer and Musings of a Housewife were so indignant. I agree that a 15-year old appearing topless in a magazine is cause for outrage, but I can’t see that it’s cause for surprise.

Unless you rejoiced in the relative wholesomeness of Hannah Montana and bought into her image, her family-friendly vibe, and her insistence that you can have “the best of both worlds,” as her hit song proclaims. The best of both worlds being, one assumes, stardom and a Christian, down-to-earth family life. I think it’s safe to say that one can have anything one wants, but not everything one wants, as my dad says his brother Herb always said.

It’s interesting to see who bloggers and commenters think is to blame for the photo. Is a 15-year old responsible for her own choices? Should her dad have made a different decision for her? Is it Vanity Fair or the celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz or Disney who most exploited a child? Billy Ray’s heart is probably achy breaky tonight, knowing that he’s definitely winning the blame game, especially in Shannon at RIMD’s estimation.

But one thing about the handwringing bothers me. While I can only imagine how hard it is to have to explain to young sons about topless photos, I think we might miss a great teaching moment as parents if we approach it as Shannon seems to, angry that there’ll have to be an “unpleasant conversation in our house tonight, about modesty and decision-making and growing up too fast.”

Now that I’ve figured out what I want my kids to learn from this experience, I’m almost regretful that Sally, at 7 1/2, hasn’t shown enough interest in the Hannah Montana DVD Grampa sent for Christmas for a lesson on modesty and decision-making and continuing-to-make-good-choices-no-matter-what-our-age to be relevant. My almost-tween still likes Dora and Curious George and Arthur. And guess how eager I am for that to change? Right.

First of all, the conversation could be pleasant, I think. When we’ve talked about modesty with Sally and Susan, it’s been in the context of that other great Disney invention, the Disney Princess. We talk about how we can like Ariel and Belle and Jasmine even if we don’t like what they choose to wear. We can love the person and be happy for their good choices while recognizing that they might make some bad choices or choices that aren’t right for us. It makes viewing a Disney movie a little bit more complicated, but the lesson of the complexity of people — loving them, being happy for their good choices while choosing not to imitate their bad choices, translates well into real life.

But I think the greatest lesson to be learned here is about peer pressure, and how it can trick even parents, even sophisticated (one imagines), fame-experienced grown-ups. This is what Miley said originally about the photo:

I think it’s really artsy. It wasn’t in a skanky way. Annie took, like, a beautiful shot, and I thought that was really cool. That’s what she wanted me to do, and you can’t say no to Annie. She’s so cute. She gets this puppy-dog look and you’re like, ‘OK.’

Saddest words I never want to hear out of my daughter’s mouth: “you can’t say no to Annie.” She’s famous, she’s intimidating, she’s emotionally manipulative (puppy-dog look?). Miley’s dad Billy Ray had a chance to be a real hero on that photo shoot, to stand up and say, “No. In our family we don’t take off our clothes in public.” And then to his daughter, he could have said, “Honey, you can say no to ANYONE. You never have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and if anyone ever asks you to, I hope you’ll come to me for help.”

If he wanted to get real mushy, he could’ve added, “Miley, you and me, and your mom (and sisters and brothers). We’re a team. We decide what’s right for us, and no matter what anyone else thinks or does or says in the world, we can do what’s right for us.”

But I’m jaded about the Cyrus family business. I’m afraid they’re probably more concerned with spinning the blame and soothing fans to spend time correcting their daughter’s erroneous belief that “you can’t say no to Annie.”

Yesterday my 7-9 year-olds Sunday School lesson was on following the commandments. When I asked the kids for examples, one boy suggested traffic laws like “stopping at stop signs.” I started listing the 10 Commandments and got stuck on number two, explaining what an idol is. Another boy said, “Like American Idol?” and I said, “Oh no, like a statue that you worship instead of God.”

But the next minute I wondered. And now I wonder more. Who are our idols? I think God wants our children (and us) to have good role models, to look up to people who do amazing things and magnify their God-given talents. And those people don’t have to be perfect. We’re not perfect. Of course. But this photo is not the best of both worlds. The best of both worlds would be the opportunity to share one’s talents AND encouragement/support from one’s parents to always make right choices.

Show me that best, and my daughters and I will enjoy more from Miley Cyrus than just a great object lesson in the perils of peer pressure.

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Makes-Me-Smile Monday: To love or not to love

I know almost to the minute when the word divorce stopped being a concept and became a possibility, a reality, a real thing in real life that could be devastating.

Oh, not for me. Dick and I fought like pole cats the first couple months of our marriage, ten years ago. We fought about the usual things: money, sex, how to spend our free time and who should be home cleaning the toilet on a fine Saturday morning. I said the “d” word once and Dick looked at me with hurt eyes; I hadn’t accepted that I could hurt him. But for him divorce was a real thing, because his parents were divorced. For me it meant “I’m really mad at you and right now I think not being married would just be simpler.” Neither of us has said that word, in relation to us, since that day.

But on Sunday, March 16th, 2008 at approximately 9:43 am, I found out that divorce can happen to anyone. It wasn’t me so I wasn’t hurt. It was someone I love, so I was mad. I wanted to pull newly-grown hair and smash Christmas ornaments and throw dinner on the floor.

In college you hear a lot about paradigm shifts. Adolescence could probably be characterized as that stage in a person’s life when (they think) they’re experiencing massive paradigm shifts between each class. My middle-aged humanities professor shocked me by saying that it had been a long time since he’d read a book that actually changed the way he thought about the world, and OH! How I pitied that man.

Threat of divorce has shifted my paradigm. It makes me feel rebellious. No one should have to turn herself into Clean House Barbie to keep her husband happy, or pretend to enjoy Jazz basketball or not to mind when the kids are not fed and in bed on the one night I go to the library after dinner. When I told Dick I felt like never cleaning again, he panicked, made me promise that I was just joking. Then I had surgery and had a medical excuse anyway.

I could probably turn into a model wife, for a week or so, at least. If I did, if I woke up and made lunches and saw him off with a kiss and a stack of French toast, and kept the house clean and kept up with our finances and never used the mean voice and picked up socks without asking, “Did you want these socks washed or were you going to wear them again tomorrow?” And if I made one of his five favorite dishes and had dinner on the already-set table and three happy, clean, and sweet-smelling children lined up to throw themselves at his legs at 5:52 pm. If I didn’t yell at them or let them hear me swear, would he love me more and think that I had lived up to the promise of my 30-pound lighter, not-stretch-marked, adoring, twenty-year-old bride-self?

Love me more: I don’t think so. Think I lived up to the promise better: probably. We did both promise to be our best selves. That’s not true. There was nothing in the actual sealing about setting goals or maintaining our figures or cleaning the toilets before doing fun things together on Saturday morning. Instead, though the LDS ceremony is slightly different, it including something about loving, honoring, cherishing. And while it didn’t say anything about in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, it did say forever, eternity. Which pretty much includes all the rest. And you usually think that the hard times would be the sickness and the worse and the poorer. But maybe those are the easy times — the times when you know you couldn’t possibly make it without your spouse at your side.

Without a man who will wipe your armpits with baby wipes when you can’t shower. Or laugh when your milk squirts him during an otherwise romantic, amorous moment. Or not even shout when you kill a laptop with your bare hands.

I didn’t really mean to write about what I don’t do to make my husband happy. And I meant to be humorous and light. Go read Marie’s Making Men Happy for a great, funny list of things men (at least the Ask.com men) want in a woman. And for proof that Google might be getting in touch with it’s feminine, nurturer side.

What I do try to do is: communicate to him that what he thinks and feels and does is important, significant, relevant. Make him know that he is the big tuna in my life, and always will be. That even though I wouldn’t actually rather get sick myself than see him sick, his health and comfort and life and happiness are vital to my own.

I would promise, like Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, to always be yar. But I know I’ll use the mean voice again. I’ll get mad that he is Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. I’ll wish at least one of us were independently wealthy. I’ll even, heaven forbid, swear in front of the children again. But with my paradigm forever shifted, I’m seeing the sickness and the worse and the poorer as opportunity to thank God for knowing better than I what was good for me.

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I think this week (month?) has been hard for a lot of people. Hard to smile when terrible things happen. Loraine has a post, Still Trying to Smile After Sunday, that nigh unto broke my heart. I usually feel pretty darn callous. What do I care about someone I don’t know? But determination to find something, anything to smile about is irresistible. My favorite line? “Likewise, Mekare finally cleaned off the coffee table- wait, one of the kids already threw her hoodie on it.” That’s my life, in a nutshell.

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To participate in the brave new world of the Makes-Me-Smile Monday carnival, write on today’s topic “How to keep your husband (or other loved one) happy” and then follow these guidelines.

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Before you object, let me say that I believe that if anyone is in a relationship with an addict or abuser or adulterer or abandoner who is not 100% committed to changing and to the relationship, they should get out. Even (especially?) if you have kids and even if the abuse or abandonment is emotional rather than physical. Staying in a bad relationship on the strength of what once was is too Rose for Emily-ish. Get out.

Frump of Mind

woman sticking head in fireplace ovenThe first time I heard someone express a desire to “stick my head in the oven,” I thought, what a sad, defeatist attitude. What good could possibly come of that, unless you had a gas oven?

But now I get it: I’ve been depressed the past couple weeks. It’s a situational depression that will go away soon, rather than clinical depression requiring medication or therapy, but, if I felt like this all the time, I would be checking myself into the nearest psych ward.

And when I’ve thought about sticking my head in the oven this past week, it wasn’t in a “the kids are driving me crazy” sort of way, but rather, for the first time, a “maybe the kids would be okay without me” sort of way. I don’t mean to be melodramatic; as I said, I know this will pass, it just hasn’t, quite, yet.

A lot of exciting or friendly things have happened recently, and each one cheered me up for about ten minutes. Each time I thought about them was good for another ten minutes of cheering up, so I thought I’d share them here. If you have any good advice on fighting post-surgical or otherwise-situational depression, somewhere between eating chocolate (not drastic enough) and hospitalization (too drastic), please let me know.

Here’s how I’m fighting the frump of mind:

A Mom to take advantage of:

My mom came yesterday to take Spot (18 mo) and Susan (3 1/2) for a few five days. I felt guilty when she offered. Of course I would love to have a break from them; although I can take care of them, it is really hard right now. But how hard does it have to be before it becomes right that someone else should have to take care of my children? I still don’t know, but when I found myself sitting on the floor, Spot in my lap still unsure why nursing is no longer on the program and Susan decorating her face with marker “freckles” AND when those two normally normal things suddenly seemed unbearable, I guess that was hard enough.

Mom told me to “take advantage of this time.” Did she mean by blogging? Well, at my doctor’s appointment yesterday I was told to take off the sling only for “desk work.” Sounds like blogging to me!

Presents

Speaking of blogging, a good friend of mine from high school had this sign made for me after she read my Love you when you’re clean and sweet-smelling post. I recently visited Andrea and saw her new baby Easton. I’m happy to report that he was both clean and sweet-smelling. She should keep him.

I’d hang it in the girls’ room, but I’m afraid they’d jump on the bed and knock it off the wall. Because they’re ladies like that. Maybe the dining room.

Speaking of blogging again, I just got some cute hairbows in the mail from Gourmet Mom-on-the-Go. You can think bloggy giveaways are silly and shameless self-promotion, until you actually win something yourself, and then, just as Toni says, even if you haven’t actually won the lottery, it’s a great pick-me-up!

My girls found the bows and have been wearing them ever since, which is why I could only find one of each pair for this picture.

I also got this book in the mail from my good friend Tara as part of a get-well-soon package. Funny, practical, and so nice to know that someone is wanting to save us from all-McDonalds-all-the-time.

It included floam for the kids and even a check to pay me back money I had forgotten she owed me. That’s true friendship right there (both my forgetting and her remembering).

Finding a Dream Place to Live

We’ve been drooling over Utah’s version of Pleasantville for months now, even though we really can’t afford a cardboard box on an outlying street under a bridge. A couple nights ago we found a tiny townhome in the BEST location ever. Made an offer today.

Our dream cardboard box looks nothing like this, but we could walk by here every day, if we wanted.

Forgive us our trespasses

I got really upset last week. My sister Mary had posted some of my recipes under her name on a new family recipe site she’s created to make sharing our favorite, modified recipes with each other easier. I got on my high “copyright,” “plagiarism,” “hard-work-taking-those-pictures and revising-and-writing-up-those-recipes” horse and made her feel bad. And THEN, yesterday? I wrote a post in which I showed some blog buttons that I have made. And my friend Tara said, Wait, I made that button. I heard (unspoken) words like “hypocrite” and “scraper” and “not-good-blogger-etiquette-r.”

Who hates that feeling (however deserved) of knowing that they have done something wrong? Do you get that awful, headachy, sick feeling? In Mary’s case, she did what she did because she thought she was helping me (remember, ole’ one arm over here) and that I wouldn’t care. I did. In my case, I thought there was a clear distinction between graphic and button — and had meant that I’d taken a graphic and created the html code to turn it into a hyperlink. I wasn’t clear enough.

My sister made amends, I made amends. One of the great things about blogging is that posts can be edited, or even taken down, if necessary. But even after Mary groveled sufficiently for the hardest of hearts, I still felt just a bit of nice self-righteous superiority. Hello! I would never do something like that. And then I did, and even though I fixed the problem and said I was sorry, I couldn’t blame Tara if she’s still just a bit miffed. Although I would never hold a grudge.

Luckily, Tara is superior to me in every way, so I’m sure it won’t take a mistake (which we’d be a long time waiting for) on her part for her to realize how easy they are to make.

Amen.

Free Publicity For Your Blog and a New Kind of Carnival

I hope you diehard bloggers aren’t suffering massive finger fatigue from the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival. Or, if you are, I hope you at least win millions of good things. I don’t know if anyone will notice my little link here at the tail end, but what I’m offering is completely priceless: Free Publicity For Life For Your Blog.

One lucky winner will win a place on my sidebar for as long as your blog remains family-friendly, which I expect to be for life. We do have decency standards around here, but, depending on how funny you are, those standards aren’t too hard to meet.

If you don’t already have a button for your blog, I can make you a custom one from a graphic you send me or from what is already on your site. Oh, and if you’d like a scrolling box to display the html code for your button on your own sidebar (encouraging your own readers to display it), I’ll make you a scrolling code box. [Any html-ness I can lay claim to I owe to Dick and to those lovely ladies at Blogging Basics 101.]

For examples of buttons and to see what a scrolling html code box looks like, direct your attention to my striking sidebar. The MMSM button is an example of a button made from a graphic tweaked from a Picasso print. The Fortune Cookie Kit button I made from a photograph Shalece sent. The Daily Delight and June Cult buttons I made from graphics that were already on Tara’s and June’s sites, respectively. So, my sidebar: that’s where you could be. Just think of it: my many readers and unwitting-Google-searchers-who-land-here will see YOUR custom button winking out at them day and night. Honey, you can’t buy that kind of publicity. Well, you could, but, better to get it for free, right?

To qualify, I’d like you to help me get a head start on the next Makes-Me-Smile Monday Carnival on April 28th. The MMSM carnival is a different kind of carnival: no more Mr. Linky’s! Instead, if you follow the guidelines here, I’ll include a link to your post in my own MMSM post, with a short blurb about it. If you know your SEO (search engine optimization) and Google/Technorati stuff, links in actual posts are much more valuable than in Mr. Linky (not to disparage Mr. Linky; he’s certainly necessary for the million-link carnivals like the Bloggy Giveaway!).

This Monday’s topic was a request from Dick, who wants to see “tips on how to make your husband happy.” We’re totally not influenced by self-interest around here. And I don’t need any more sex tips, so I hope that doesn’t rule out the top five things that immediately sprang to your mind. The movie I thought of to go along with this is The Philadelphia Story. (or the more jazzy — literally — remake High Society). You don’t have to have seen either movie to write a post with great tips on how to keep a significant other happy, but it certainly wouldn’t be a bad use of a Saturday night.

But I digress. You should probably automatically qualify for the Powerball Lottery if you’ve actually read this far, but, getting back to the Free Publicity For Life For Your Blog (button, sidebar, scrolling box) contest, simply leave one tip on the making of a loved one (child/parent/friend/spouse) happy, and you’re entered. If thinking up a happy-making tip gets you thinking on a post you could write for the MMSM carnival, even better. But not necessary. (Well, not for this contest. For the betterment of mankind, maybe).

Comments Closed — Winner to be announced SOON.

Earth Mother Day

I confess I’m not very green. I don’t even have much desire to be green — too lazy, too busy, too unconvinced that driving a Prius will save the planet when apparently production of a hybrid battery contaminates it. Too worried that anything I do won’t make enough of a difference. And too lazy. Did I already say that one?

I buy those funny twisty lightbulbs, but only because it saves shopping trips in the long run. I make most of our food from scratch, but only because it tastes better that way. And I run the washer and dryer sparingly, but that’s only because if I washed the clothes I’d probably have to fold and put them away. More energy wasted!

I would like to do my part for Earth day though, especially since the Seattle Mom Blogs and Goodies for Mom ladies seem really earnest about everyone doing their part, though every time a “green product” is promoted, I get just a bit skeptical.

Here’s the one thing I’ve done very conscientiously and consistently in the past seven years, and all for the good of mankind:

Breastfeeding. It’s natural, it’s healthy, it’s downright biological. And it’s cheap. And easy, once you figure it out and it stops hurting like a mother (get it?). There’s a lot of misinformation out there about breastfeeding though, so I thought I’d list a few of the Myths of Breastfeeding. If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re probably right, but I have nursed three kids until they were 11 months 3 weeks, 14 months, and 18 months old. And my first kid? Sally? She was 9 lb 3 oz at birth and 10 lb 14 oz at 10 days old. Beat that, Enfamil!

(If you can’t or don’t breastfeed, don’t feel bad. We’re only talking about saving the planet, after all. Ah, ah, I joke! I jest! Just don’t look at me and my disposable diapers like that, ok?).

Myths of Breastfeeding

1) Baby knows how to breastfeed. Reality: Baby is freaking clueless and so are you. Get a consultant, read books, watch youtube.

2) Consultants know how you should breastfeed. Reality: If any one lactation consultant knew how every mother should breastfeed, she would be a millionaire. Talk to a mother or sister or friend.

3) Breastfeeding only hurts if baby is not latching on correctly. Reality: Take a sensitive organ. Any sensitive organ. Attach a gnawing, clamping, totally self-involved, bloodsucking parasite to that sensitive organ for approximately 7 hours at a time 23 times a day for one year. Oh yes, that feels good.

4) When you’ve finally mastered breastfeeding, you’ll have years to enjoy this incredible bond with another human being. Reality: Sooner than you’re ready, it’s time to wean. No matter how much you hated it at first, or felt like a dairy cow the entire time, or wallowed in the sublime connection, baby will move on to Sippy Cups and 2% milk (hopefully from recycled materials and your local dairy goat farm).

I hope the tree huggers appreciate all the mommy breastfeeders! Sometimes I wonder, especially whenever there is another brouhaha about breastfeeding in public. Please. Can we talk about something more socially significant, like whether or not teenagers should be allowed to breathe in public or adults to talk politics in non-trans-fat-using restaurants?

Breast-feeding: Anytime, Anywhere

And that’s what works for me.

Going under the knife

I read an article in the New York Times six months ago that changed the way I view cosmetic surgery. I don’t say “plastic” surgery, because it was a plastic surgeon who sewed up my 4-year-old brother’s eyelids after a car accident left him full of broken glass. Plastic surgeons fix cleft palates and enable mastectomy victims to feel themselves again. But no matter how much I guiltily longed for rhinoplasty in moments of teenage angst, boob jobs and tummy tucks still seemed, well, sort of shallow.

THEN I had three kids, and stretch marks from my breasts to my calves, and a creepy mommy-pouch, which might work quite nicely if we were marsupials. Only another mother can truly appreciate how disheartening it is to look like an old bag (literally) at thirty. At least, I thought only another mother could, but it turns out that cosmetic surgeons are both deeply empathetic, and eager to fix the problem. As the great Dr. Stoker says in the Times article,

The severe physical trauma of pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding can have profound negative effects that cause women to lose their hourglass figures . . .

Twenty years ago, a woman did not think she could do something about it and she covered up with discreet clothing . . . But now women don’t have to go on feeling self-conscious or resentful about their appearance.

Ah! Ah! That’s me. Severe physical trauma, lost figure, self-conscious and resentful. All I need is a breast-lift (implants optional), tummy tuck and some discreet full-body liposuction, or, in other words, The Mommy Makeover, and I could be better than new.

I could go from this:

To this:

Who wouldn’t want to go back to their 11-year-old self, strange costumes and big hair and all? And for only $15k – $30k? I don’t have anything better to do with that kind of money. It’s not like children are starving in Africa. Or, if there were, it’s not like American Idol and tons of celebrities aren’t doing EVERYTHING they can to solve that problem.

I’m tired of Fighting the Frump with baby steps. Exercise and drinking water and avoiding unflattering clothes and taking a ding-dang shower and having a positive outlook: great ideas, but do they get rid of my marsupial pouch? Are they as easy and convenient as one-time surgery? Will they make me look like Katie Holmes? I don’t think so.

After months of deliberation, I went under the knife last week. I wasn’t prepared for the pain. Or the brain fog. Or the constipation. Turns out it’s serious business, that general anesthesia. As they strapped me to the table (I had to be sitting upright for the surgeon to have access) and put the oxygen on me, I had second thoughts. What if something happened and I never woke up? Would my kids be glad I looked AWESOME in my coffin?

Was it worth weaning Spot? I know it’s not too early to wean her; she’s 18 months and happy as a clam on 2% milk, but when she climbed on my bed and tugged on my shirt a couple days before the surgery, I cried. Sometimes I think she’ll be my last baby, but those are usually the days when I’m not even remotely sad about no longer breastfeeding — no longer being the human pacifier, the body that has grown saggy and baggy and old with the business of bringing three babies into the world.

Then I woke up and Dick was there, and I felt so sad. I thought my heart would break. Is sadness a side effect of anesthesia? Shouldn’t I be feeling sassy and fresh?

Dick held my hand (tighter!) and asked why the doctor had written Y-E-R on my right arm? And I realized there had been a big mistake. Instead of a boob job and tummy tuck and full-body liposuction, I’d gotten surgery on my shoulder, which had been marked YES. I just hope my surgeon’s hand is steadier on a scalpel than on a marker.

Because I can’t imagine going under the knife for anything less than a seriously better body.

Mommy Haikus

changing diapers in
public embarrass no more
Mom: One, Poop: Zero.

or

changing diapers in
public embarrasses not
Mom: Won, Poop: Zero.

smell your neck as safe
in your lap, I snuggle, warm
and then I can go.

blood on your mattress
new sister for us. And then
another brother

belly breast and brain
cradle manna character
her Self became me

Your face is the home
barometer. Your wooden
spoon was always fair.

There’s a 1000 dollar giveaway over at RIMD today. I know, makes all those other giveaways look pretty darn skimpy. Deadline is 8 pm CST (those Okies!) to submit your Mom haiku (5-7-5 syllables, usually about nature). If I get a brain transplant (preferably from a non-percocet-abusing person) before tonight and think up some good ones, I’ll update this post. Meanwhile, I am pretty happy to have one poem with an alternate version. Very Emily Dickinson, don’t you think?

Going Home Everyday

I took a shower with Dick yesterday. But it had nothing to do with sex, unfortunately. Instead, with my right arm dangling uselessly after shoulder surgery five days ago, it was me needing someone to scrub the sweat from my armpits and lather up my greasy hair. I can barely snap my own jeans and blow my own nose. And even though I’m down to only half a percocet pain-wise, that is PLENTY enough to reduce me to vegetable-like conversational responses. Who knows what I said when I was taking two pills at a time.

So it’s not my slovenly and self-pityingly-gluttonous well-groomed appearance or near-catotonic slobbering sparkling wit or even my impatient, helpless martyr-like good cheer that keeps Dick around. I did promise him that if our situation is ever reversed, and he is crippled or demented or cancerous or just old and cranky, I will wipe his bum gladly, and turn him regularly so that the bedsores have a chance to heal.

Sometimes I wonder if Dick is patient and caring with me because he loves me or merely because he is a good person. And would I prefer to believe that he is genuinely good, or that he would just do anything for me because he worships me? Without the sacrilegious issues, of course.

Either way, life, married life, is not what I expected, and the way I love Dick and am loved by him are not what I expected. For better or worse.

I fell in love for the first time when I was eighteen. It was giddy, and fabulous, and ferocious. We played board games and drank fizzy fake white wine. I fell in love with the smell in the crease of a neck, with smooth, golden skin and thick, dark-blond hair. With dazzle and charm and charisma. Fast driving and loud music and a feeling of being special, and needed, and cool.

I learned to tone down my own ambition and hide my own inclinations. I agreed that my family were hopelessly uncool and just wanted me to settle down, settle in, behave. I apologized for things that weren’t my fault, even for things that I should have been proud of. I couldn’t be happy unless my love was happy, and my love was not often happy. I tailored myself even more and stopped dreaming about the future.

Sometimes, before you can go home, you have to leave home. I went to Europe. Mom drove me to the airport and I got on a plane for the first time in my life without saying goodbye. I had to buy expensive tampons at an airport store in Amsterdam; this was before 9/11, so I stared at the security guard with the Uzzi. He didn’t care about my tampon purchase, or the fact that flying, especially the landing part, is not very glamorous with nasal congestion. It just hurts.

When you leave home you can think about home better than you ever could when you’re there. You figure out what you like (yogurt and custards and good bread) and what you really do hate (selfish people) and what you can live without (being cool) and what you need to have in your life (someone who’ll soap you up all over even when you can’t return the favor).

I came home and met Dick a year later. We were so dumb and silly when we got married. He warned me that he would probably always be poor, and that sounded romantic. I suddenly wanted to have six children and raise them in the woods, with cloth diapers I’d sewn myself from cotton I’d gleaned from the fields.

I couldn’t talk to Dick for any length of time without getting harpy and passionate and urgent. Love, this time, was not shutting in or stepping back or cleaning up. I never had to temper myself for him. Of course, his favorite part of Enchanted is when Giselle experiences and expresses anger for the first time. (I don’t know if that’s a good sign, or if I should have just stopped at Dick’s favorite part of a Disney movie . . .)

Dick made fun of the poor cripple tonight when we ran out for milk and bread (and teeth-whitening strips and a ball for Spot and bananas for Sally and strawberries for Susan). He shuffled one leg and huddled his right arm protectively at his side. Today was a hard day. I think we can add mild depression and general malaise to the side effects of percocet (besides the regular constipation and Total Foggy Mind).

The kids jumped on me until they jarred my shoulder and I yelled. I called Dick and begged him like the strong woman I am to come home early. He did. He walked in the door and the kids swarmed him, and I took a deep breath. When Dick comes home, when I anticipate sleeping close to his familiar arm and leg and hand, life actually seems almost as shiny as we thought it would be ten years ago. Before the two shoulder surgeries and the miscarriage and the elephant-man allergic reactions and the three kids and the dangerous drug neighborhoods and the messy house and the mean voice. Before living in Japan and New York City and Cairo, where we were alone together, far away from anything remotely resembling what home had meant to us before.

Going home to Dick, every night in our bed, the entire world shut out and unimportant, I forget my frustrations and disappointments and I know that life is everything I ever hoped it would be. And you know that not even percocet can create an illusion that good.

—–

I’ve entered this in Scribbit’s April Write-Away Contest. I know. I think I’m getting sick that way.

MMSM: The Great Muppet Caper — UPDATED

I feel a bit like a muppet myself, today. Sort of floppy and round-headed. I could use those sticks attached to my wrists to move my right arm and a hand supporting my spine to keep my head from lolling to the side. And a rag for the drool would be nice.

Probably that is just the percocet talking. The percocet would probably also be happy to tell you that I have finally pooped for the first time since last Thursday. There is nothing like being grateful for normal bowel functions.

After my surgery on Friday, where the orthopedist discovered that I had neither cartilage nor ligaments to repair (who wants a fake shoulder? Ooh, ooh, Me!), I had just a few requests: lemon meringue pie, Krispy Kreme donuts with white frosting filling, Coke fountain drinks and hot chocolate. I read once that alcohol changes to sugar, which is why it’s bad for your diet? I hope mixing painkillers with apocalyptic amounts of sugar isn’t as dangerous as mixing drugs with beer.

Of course, a clear head can be kept. Just say no! The pain builds, like when Spot gets hurt and she catches her breath, and the longer it takes for the crying to start, the worse you know it’s going to be. You hold your breath with the baby, hu-ah, hu-ah, hu-ah, then the piercing, penetrating screeching. Whole body tensed against the pain, waiting, focused. Then, oh yes, there it is, almost a relief to not be anticipating it any longer. No need to hold your breath any longer.

But why did you want to keep a clear head again?

Swing by 3 AM Designs to check out Toni’s post, complete with Miss Piggy youtube scenes. There is no pain, physical or emotional, that a Muppet scene on youtube cannot make a little bit better.

Ryan, who is no longer Sixteen going on Seventeen

I used to describe my little brother Ryan with words like smart, strong-willed, opinionated, just-a-tad judgemental, dog-lover, extremely handy with power tools and vehicles of all kinds, and might-fit-into-a-right-wing-militia-in-Idaho, except for the gun part.

Ryan is closer in age to my daughter Sally than to me.

Since we share absolutely none of those characteristics (especially not the first four), and since I am fourteen years older, there has sometimes been a bit of . . . friction in our relationship. Although I think I did impress him when I snagged Dick for a husband 10 years ago (Ryan was 7), as Ryan thinks Dick is the cat’s pajamas; perhaps the first thing we ever agreed on.

Last weekend Ryan wanted to know when my blog became all about sex. Apparently he was trying to find something on it to show to his friend, who happens to be a girl, and he was embarrassed as the word sex cropped up in more than one post. He said my mom agreed that some things should remain private, AND he admitted that he hadn’t read the posts in question, but was still willing to bet that they were inappropriate. WELL.

We discussed this rationally, calmly. At crescendoing volume. Ryan says he is so eager to avoid sin that he immediately shuts off at any mention of sex. While (hard as it may be to imagine in a normal teenage American boy) I believe that he is sincere in his desire to remain worthy of serving a mission for our church and marrying an equally pure girl in the future, I had to ask if he honestly expects me to believe that he has a) never watched a James Bond movie or b) never watched any TV or c) never read most books (including dad-sanctioned “classics” such as Ayn Rand’s).

My strongest defense, I think, is that it is appropriate (perhaps imperative) for married people to discuss sex (thought not necessarily on the internet, of course) and how it contributes to the intimacy and health of the marital relationship. And, as one person commented on one of my sex posts, it is CRAZY how sex is discussed so often (and so often misguidedly) by the un-marrieds.

But I digress. I was talking about Ryan, and about why anyone thought it was a good idea for him to join the Debate Club. Because that is so foreign to our natures.

As we argued discussed, I called him a liar, and then apologized and he said some mean things and then apologized. And all of the sudden we were talking more quietly and I could actually hear what he was saying and I realized that he has grown up and might not fit into that right-wing-militia-in-Idaho anymore. I don’t think he’s bugged me about my caffeine fountain drink habit in months. But that might be because he doesn’t know I’ve recidivisted, again.

Ryan is now someone I would choose to be friends with, especially if I were stranded somewhere or needed mechanical help or just wanted conversation with a lively, curious mind. He knows how to keep his promises. His word is good. He will make a great husband and father some day, and he will honor his wife and treat her with great dignity. And if he ever wants to talk about sex and how to please his new wife, I want him to know that I will be here for him.

Happy Birthday, Ryan. We love you!