Thursday, May 24, 2012

The words that don't fail say this:

A friend's husband died unexpectedly this week. Dave was 46, very fit, ate a vegan diet. He was a beloved father, husband, and friend. He coached Little League baseball and little girls' basketball. He was a handsome man of energy and good humor.

He and my friend were supposed to be celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary today. Instead, she's planning his funeral. There is no rhyme or reason to the world sometimes. 

Their children are the same ages as mine. I imagine each of our friends is taking a private mental stroll down "If That Were Me" Lane. It is unfathomable. I can't help but think I couldn't be half the things to our girls that Mr. Sandyshoes is to them. I can't teach them what he'll teach them, can't be the role model he is, can't, can't, can't. So much he does, I can't.

But that wouldn't be the point. Our partners are irreplaceable, period, as are we. It would be an unfixable break, an unfillable hole. A little girl is going to grow up saying "my Dad died when I was 8," and it's just dumb luck that it isn't my own little girl. We are, all of us, any given heartbeat away from our lives turned upside down.

Love like there's no tomorrow, people.  Yes, it's impossible to sustain that energy, that urgency, through every interaction with our dearest ones, let alone with every other human we encounter. But do keep perspective. Do remember what matters and doesn't. Be good to each other. Plan a long life, sure! - and fill each day of it with words and acts of love, because plans go awry, and all you really have is now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hands up all who'd rather save sleep than daylight.

I do not appreciate Daylight Saving Time, and not only because of everyone calling it Daylight "Savings" time all over the place, as if I need another thing to correct.  The semi-annual sleep adjustment is a little burr under the saddle I'd rather have removed, is all.  I just want to leave time the hell alone. 

Even the Bean needed waking up this morning. She's usually up before anyone, and on her most helpful days, she makes breakfast, puts the water on for my tea, and lays out all the ingredients for me to make lunch for her and her sister. That Bean is awesome. You tell her she's awesome, and she says, "I know," but you can tell she's trying not to grin.

I think maybe this will be my new candidate litmus test. Promise me you'll do away with time changes... I don't care whether we stick with daylight saving or standard time, just pick one and don't change it... and you have my vote.

That, and don't appoint any more wacky originalists to the Supreme Court, ok?  OK.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

I don't think they're sugarplums.

Cripes, I hate it when the Peanut wigs out in her sleep.

We still keep a baby monitor in the basement for when we're watching a movie and wouldn't be able to hear the girls if they called us from two floors up. One night we were watching something... a thriller, I wish I could remember which... and I heard the Peanut call "Mommy! MOMMY!" So up I dashed, and when I reached her, she was standing in the middle of the room, completely still, eyes wide open but unfocused. She turned her head to me, unblinking, and whispered, "something's coming... closer... closer..." 

Yikes. I have read enough Stephen King and watched enough creepy psychodrama to be thoroughly freaked out by this. "What's coming, Peanut? What is it?" No response, just those huge open eyes. I put her back to bed. She had no memory of it the next morning, but of course I will never be able to forget it. She's talked in her sleep since she could talk at all, and her sudden utterances can be jarring, but that's one for the record books.

As a toddler she used to wake up in the middle of the night in tears, unable to explain why she was awake or upset. Other times she'd wake furious and insist something was wrong with her toe, or her foot. Probably it had pins and needles from how she'd been lying on it. This kept happening from time to time, always her foot hurt, and there was no making it better. You just had to wait till she drifted off again.

A few weeks after "something's coming..." we heard "Mommy! MOMMY!" then silence. Again, "MOMMY!" and I went upstairs, sort of dreading it. This time she was still in bed, but propped up on her elbows, eyes open. I checked for all the obvious things... fever, wet bed... nothing. Phew. But she wouldn't respond to me. She'd recoil when I touched her, thrash around like crazy, and yell "MOMMY!" really loudly even right after I said "What?! I'M RIGHT HERE!" After several minutes of this she sat up and said "Mommy! Some people just STAND THERE, when you need them to MOVE!" then lay back down and fell quietly asleep.

It's true you know. Some people just stand there, when you need them to move. 

Last night, I heard her yelling the Bean's name. "Bean! BEAN! BEAN!!!" I got upstairs to find her jerking around in bed, completely agitated, not responding to my voice, though she stopped yelling for her sister and started yelling for me. She'd be still for two seconds and then jerk around and yell again.

I never know whether to wake her up, or wait it out. But the more this happens, the more inclined I am to wake her up as much as I can. She can't seem to shake herself out of whatever has her upset, and it's clearly not fun.

This time I sat her up and talked to her gently but firmly, in a serious voice, saying her name, and to wake up enough to answer. "Mommy! I don't know why I can't keep still!" she said. "I keep having... visions?" (Oh lord.) "It's hard to explain... everything is going really slowly, and I don't know why!" "Are you awake, or asleep, Peanut?" "Mostly asleep..." and she lay back down and was out cold.

Visions.  Something coming closer... closer. I think I liked it better when it was just her foot.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

I am the Lorax. I speak for... well, Universal Studios, I guess.

I'm going to be a wet blanket on this one. I don't think a movie should have been made of Dr. Seuss's book, The Lorax. Remember the Lorax? Who "speaks for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please"?  The folks responsible for Despicable Me made a movie of it.

That is, they churned out an uninspired, bland, predictable story to justify charging people to see a movie-length CGI production featuring some elements of the original. They call it "Dr. Seuss's" The Lorax, but it isn't really. It's hard to imagine that Dr. Seuss would've been down with the idea of Lorax-based merchandising. 

the original
I was planning to refuse to see it out of principle; then the Peanut was invited to a Lorax birthday party, so as long as she was going to see it, the Bean wanted to, and I was kind of stuck. 

So here's what it is. Thneedville is a walled community without trees, where fresh air is supplied by a corporation run by an evil little man and his thugs. Nobody minds. Our hero is a kid who loves a girl who paints pictures of trees on her house and dreams of seeing a real one. To win her affection, he goes off to find her a tree, and locates the Once-ler, who in intermittent flashbacks tells the story of what happened to them.

It's boring. They made The Lorax boring. There's very little of the original text in the script, and a lot of nothing added to fill time. Betty White (voicing the hero kid's Grandma) and Danny DeVito (voicing the title role), Zac Efron and Taylor Swift, cool as they are, didn't wow me. 

Adding to the wretchedness:  it has songs. The young Once-ler carries around an electric guitar, and now this is a musical.

They took The Lorax, stripped it of its simplicity, wisdom, and wit, added flat, stock characters and music not worthy of a good advertisement, threw in some obligatory cute animal bits, and spat it back out at a public ready to open their wallets. Universal Studios hasn't missed a trick - the movie contains several sequences that will make great rides in their theme parks.

Remember the villain played by Ken Jeong in Furry Vengeance? Basically the same villain here. Remember Alvin and the Chipmunks? Add fins, and you got yourself some Humming-Fish. Thneedville with its bottled air is not unlike the spaceship carrying everyone around in Wall-E. I don't think there's an original angle in this whole film.

If you see it, you won't have a horrible time. It's not actively unpleasant (except for the singing, gah!). You might even like it. My problem comes from setting the bar too high -- from believing that anyone who really read and understood this story, with its message about conservation and corporate greed, would never turn it into something as vapid and forgettable as this, let alone stamp Loraxes on stuff and go "biggering and biggering and biggering and biggering." In an arrangement that busts the irony meter into tiny outraged splinters, this Lorax is now being used to sell cars. I am the Lorax! I speak for the Mazdas!

It's the height of cynicism to have done this, and I hope it's a colossal failure.

Monday, February 27, 2012

That said... what an unusually mild winter we're having!

Yesterday wrapped up February school vacation. We're not skiiers or island hoppers (skiing looks fun, but it's the island hopping I could really envy), so we generally stick around. This week's been warm enough to go on a couple of really great walks. Watching my lovely girls "discover" a shallow pool along a trail through the woods of our town's little nature center took me back about four decades.

For a couple years when I was really little, our family lived in a college town just outside Boston. The college campus had a little pond. One fall day my mother packed a picnic and we sat on the grass by the pond and had lunch, then played around for a while. I couldn't have been more than 6. I distinctly remember the sensations of that day; the "ploop" sound of little stones tossed into the water, the endless circles of ripples they made, rough twigs in my hand and the sounds they made flicking mud and water around, cool damp moss at the pond's edge, brightly colored leaves floating about.  I remember it as a Huge Adventure.

I want my girls to have so many memories like this that they don't seem unique. I hope each of my daughters will walk in the woods as an adult and feel that it's a familiar thing, a thing she grew up doing with her mother and her sister who love her beyond measure, so that whenever she does it it's a comfort on some very basic level.  Assuming we can continue to avoid both poison ivy and Lyme Disease, we appear to be on track for these happy woodsy memories to be so plentiful they blur together.

Yesterday afternoon they came across this mushy puddly place in the woods and pretended it was Degoba and they were Yoda and Luke Skywalker. That's a memory I might single out, even if they don't.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

So, how are you enjoying public office?

I always said I wouldn't write here about the particulars of serving on the local School Committee (= School Board, in most states), and these days that's probably a better idea than ever. Still, because many people ask me this in passing... let's just say "enjoy" is the wrong verb. "Regret" is the wrong verb as well, for the record. "Endure" is a strong candidate. Oh, I jest! But it can be frustrating.

It's wrecked my blog, for one thing. I don't give time to blogging any more, and I don't feel free to write publicly about a lot of the things that occupy my (admittedly limited) mental real estate these days. What's left? Who wants to read a post about what an unusually mild winter we're having? Nobody, that's who. If Daniel Craig himself called me up and wanted to talk about what an unusually mild winter we're having, I might hang up the damn phone.

Still, I can't bring myself to take Noted and Blogged down. I love some of the pieces I've posted here, I did enjoy (sometimes it is the right verb!) my intermittent writing hobby, and someday I hope to again.