Setting sail and home defense.

"Why is there a broom sticking out of your couch?" you may ask. And I would answer, "What broom?" You may think you see a broom, but what you're really glimpsing is the forward cannon, and that isn't my couch: it's a brigantine. That smallish person perched atop the vessel is Pirate Captain Sharkhead, displaying his most furious scowl.

"Pirate Captain Sharkhead?" you ask.

Indeed. He's the scurviest rascal ever to sail the seven seas.

He never travels alone. Meet Captain Sharkhead's first mate, Monkeybrains:


 They're the most fearful twosome ever to command a brig.

They fear no sea creature, no matter how horrible.

When creatures attack, they are at the ready!

A smattering of Nerf bullets at short range will surely deter any foes. And if that doesn't work, Pirate Captain Sharkhead will not hesitate to fling his entire weapon at any dastardly creature foolish enough to advance!

I can rest easy at night knowing that I'm fully protected. Captain Sharkhead himself assured me last night, as I tucked him into bed, "Mommy, if any monsters or creatures try to get into our house at night, I will karate chop them. Or probably just shoot them."

Yep. Now that I've seen what the kid can do to an Imaginext lobster, I feel pretty secure.

 Don't let the adorable grin fool you. He's ruthless.

In other, not entirely unrelated news, I should probably spend some time with other adults soon.


Worth the read.

I just finished Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex. Highly recommended! It's the story of Cal (born Calliope), a person who is a chromosomal male, but with indeterminate genitalia. Assumed to be a girl at her birth, Calliope is raised as a girl by her parents, but comes to realize the truth about his identity as a teenager and soon comes to live his life as the male Cal. It's a great family saga, spanning three generations of the Stephanides family. It begins "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." And with that line, the reader is thrown into the confusion, the guilt, the shame, the secrets, and the insecurity that attend not only Cal but his parents and grandparents.

Cal is a great protagonist, and it felt like a privilege to be there, hearing him unravel the story of his and his family's past. It's as though the telling of his story is what allows Cal to make sense of the whole thing himself.

One of my favorite passages:
Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." I'd like to show how "intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members" connects with "the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age." I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar."
I also liked that the end of the novel is not perfectly resolved; everything isn't packaged in a perfect bow and made to feel nicey-nice. There is resolution, and a satisfying ending, but not at the expense of the integrity of the narrative.

Next up on my reading list? Possibly Lord of the Flies, which I've never read. It's been sitting on my shelf unopened for some time. Any other suggestions for me? What do I absolutely have to read this year?

Worth another watch.

"That was the summer of 1963, when everybody called me 'Baby,' and it didn't occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy was shot, before the Beatles came, when I couldn't wait to join the Peace Corps, and I thought I'd never find a guy as great as my dad."

Oh, you just have to love Dirty Dancing! I had a dream a few weeks ago with Patrick Swayze in it, and when I woke up I had the soundtrack to this movie playing uncontrollably through my mind. So many delicious scenes and fabulous quotes:

"Oh come on, ladies, God wouldn't have given you maracas if he didn't want you to shake 'em!"
"I carried a watermelon."
"Nobody puts Baby in a corner!"

Has there ever been a greater coming-of-age romance story? *sigh*


It's amazing I get ANYTHING done around here when the adorable quotient is so darn high.

I'm working on collecting my thoughts for a post about my work (the job that I actually get paid for, that is), but of course, it has to be perfect, so it hasn't materialized quite yet. While I'm crafting that piece, look how adorable my son is:

Eliot and Steven taking pictures of each other taking pictures...lol.

Mommy trying to stitch something up, but getting distracted by silly boys.

Our next door neighbor requests Eliot's assistance with plowing the snow...

...AND lets him work the control lever.

If I stick my tongue out long enough, I'm sure to taste a flake.


Etsy favorites.

I am completely enamored of everything handmade, so naturally, Etsy is like a drug to me. So much wonderful eye candy in one spot! I actually warned Steven the other day that I may need him to use parental controls to block the website from me because I can get in so much trouble browsing and finding things I can't possibly live without.

Lately I've been drawn to embroidery and other stitching type crafts, but I always love vintage, letterpress, scherenschnitte (paper cutting), pretty much any kind of paper craft. So today I'm sharing some of my most recent favorites. I love looking at them arranged together in a collage. I'm not sure how to describe my style. "Eclectic," maybe? But that's just a cop out. Anyway, here are some of the items I'm loving to look at. I might even have purchased a few of them. I couldn't resist. ;)


I need an embroidery floss organizer more than I need a cable subscription.

The Ball jar is beginning to get crowded, and I have many more projects in mind for this year.
Currently in progress: Unibrow Girl. I'm so addicted to these little patterns from andwabisabi. They're adorable, and they take no time at all to stitch up.

(pattern from andwabisabi)

 I can lie on the couch and work on these while watching TV. Steven and I just finished the Six Feet Under series, and have started on Dexter. It's more than a bit disconcerting to see Michael C. Hall go from David to Dexter. I'm rather more a fan of David...

I don't know whether I'm going to like Dexter, but I've only seen the first two episodes so far, so I suppose I will give it a few more episodes to win me over before I give up entirely.

I don't subscribe to cable or satellite, so the only time I really watch TV is through Netflix or DVD rentals. So I've pretty much missed...well...a lot of TV over the last thirteen years or so. Ha ha! As far as I can tell, I haven't missed much. Six Feet Under was a gem, and I do adore The Office and 30Rock.  What other series have I missed out on that I should know about?


Cold days, long nights.

It was a bone cold, dreary day today. Eliot and I got out of the house once this morning for a play date at a friend's house, where he acted so abominably, I was embarrassed. He wasn't terrible, terrible, but he was rude. Embarrassingly rude. And of course, none of my empty threats garnered any response. I've really got to step up the discipline. I'm not good at putting my foot down; part of the problem is that he's so damn cute all the time, and part of the problem is that I'm a notorious pushover anyway. Gah! Lately, he has been calling me "Mr. Butt," an admittedly semi-funny, but most disrespectful moniker that irritates me to no end. I keep telling him, "People don't call their mommies, 'butts!' We don't do that; it's rude." He pouts and says, "Sorry, Mommy. I will try my best. I will try my best, but sometimes I just have to say Mr. Butt."

"Fine. Then sometimes, I just have to put you in time out."

Sigh. And then he hugs me and kisses my face and says, "I love you, Mommy. You're my favorite best friend."

See why I lose every time?

Steven hasn't been around much lately; with the shifts he works, he sleeps late, leaves during Eliot's nap, and comes home late, so Eliot hasn't even really seen him for a few days. Tonight he asked me when Steven would be home, and I said it would be "late, after the sunshine goes to sleep and after you and I go to sleep too." Eliot thought about that, and replied, "Okay. So he's kind of like Santa Claus, huh?" LOL.

Today I started reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to Eliot. I realize he's pretty young for it, but I've been making up longer and longer stories to tell to him at bedtime and he always begs for "more, more, more," so I thought maybe we would try working on a chapter or so of a longer book each night before bed. We pitched his igloo tent in his bedroom this afternoon and crawled in and read the first chapter, just as a test run. He seemed interested, though I know a lot of the description went over his head. After reading a few paragraphs, I stop and explain what's happening with the plot and what some of the words mean that he hasn't heard before (like "cyclone"). I couldn't tell if he was all that into it this afternoon, since after we finished the first chapter, he wanted to read Mickey Mouse instead, but then as I was putting him to bed tonight he specifically requested "that book we were reading in the tent, with the little girl and her dog." So we went through the second chapter, where the house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East and Dorothy makes the acquaintance of the Munchkins and the good Witch of the North. She's given the silver shoes (not the ruby red slippers of the film version), and is told to seek out the Wizard of Oz, who may be able to help her return home. So that's where we left off this evening. We'll see if he wants to continue tomorrow. It might get too creepy for him; I'm not sure.

And now that the son of "Mr. Butt" is tucked snugly into bed, clutching his stuffed Pluto dog and a Halloween eyeball ring, it is time for me to get back to work. My classes resume on Monday, and (since it isn't yet late Sunday night, ha ha) I haven't quite finished putting my syllabi together.

I'll probably be having dreams tonight of the Wizard of Oz as Moliere's Tartuffe and Dorothy as Dorine...


Born to be wild.

Eliot's dad recently bought him a Paper Jamz guitar, which I had never heard of, and oh my goodness, is it ever hilarious to watch him play! Like any little boy, Eliot looks up to his daddy. He recently told me that he didn't want anymore haircuts because he wants his hair to "stick up like Daddy's." If Pa Pa the farmer is Eliot's greatest hero, then Daddy is surely way up there on the list near him.

Since his dad plays the guitar (in fact, Eliot was named after one of his daddy's favorites; his middle name is Gibson), naturally, Eliot thinks guitars, or, as he pronounces it "kit tars," are pretty darned cool.

I'm not entirely clear how the Paper Jamz guitar works, but it plays the song, and the guitar parts only come in when he actually strums it. 

He definitely has the rock star moves down. Here he is, rocking out a little this morning before daycare:

I'm so glad that Eliot's dad and I are getting along to the extent that we have no trouble letting him bring favorite toys back and forth from one another's homes. Every other weekend, he carts along tractors, or bowling balls and pins, or stuffed animals. Apparently, one day he decided he'd like to bring his baby brother along; needless to say, that idea was quickly nixed and he showed up on my doorstep with Lincoln Logs instead. LOL. :)

Being able to see Eliot jam out with his new guitar was priceless. I am truly blessed.


An easy, entertaining read for January.

One of the items on my 2011 uberlist (Rather than make New Year's resolutions, I make to-do lists for the upcoming year.) is to read at least one book per month. In the past, before the full-time job and the kiddo, I read much more often than I do now. I tried to keep track last year of the books I read during 2010, and I quit listing them after awhile, but I remember thinking in January that I probably read about 30 books a year. At the end of 2010, though, I'm pretty sure I had read less than 12. Crazy, crazy.

I read ALL the time; it's just that a lot of the reading I do is for my classes, brushing up on short fiction or plays, or poetry, most of which I've read numerous times before and probably taught before as well. And if my attention isn't focused elsewhere, I'll basically read anything around me: billboards, newspapers, magazines, receipts, bumper stickers, random scraps of paper lying around. If I spy words somewhere, I have to know what they say. That's just me. I can't not answer a ringing telephone, and I can't not read any text within my sight. I'm curious. Or, just nosy. But we'll go with curious.

For awhile now, Steven has tried to convince me to read Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. He even bought me a copy. Science fiction is a genre that holds little interest for me, I must admit. So I wasn't at all convinced that I would like this book, even though more than one of my friends assured me of its fabulousness.

But...I finally picked it up on a whim a few days ago, and I'm cruising right through it. It's an interesting read. I'm really enjoying it thus far. I'm anxious to see how it turns out. Nobody tell me!


Yet another post about my most amazing kid.

Last night I had to run to Walmart but had been putting it off all day. I finally loaded Eliot into the car and we did our shopping around 7:00. It was already dark outside.

When we got back to the house, I was trying to usher Eliot inside quickly because it was so cold. I can't abide the cold. Trying to get Eliot to do anything quickly is like being head cheerleader at a slug race. The boy is a master of dawdling, and has never been in a hurry to get anywhere thus far in his life. He likes to take the scenic route. If there is a puddle anywhere near the car, he must stomp in it before getting in the vehicle, even if we're already late. If there is a pile of snow, he will stop to kick it, no matter how many times I warn him not to get his shoes wet. In the spring, he will inevitably spy a stick that needs throwing or a bird that needs chasing before he can possibly climb into his car seat. It is usually a mere ten feet from our front door to the car door, but do not be fooled. That ten foot expanse is interminable.

So yesterday evening, as I am once again physically trying to persuade my son of the value of a good hustle, Eliot hangs back and tugs at my coat sleeve. "Wait, Mom! Wait! Wait!"

"Whaaaat, Eliot?" I moan in my come-on-already-child, isn't-it-your-bedtime-YET voice.

"Look at the stars," he breathes, head tilted skyward, one tiny mitten raised in the air, pointing (or pointing as well as anyone CAN point while wearing mittens, that is).

I take a step back and direct my frustrated attention upward.

"That's my favorite wishing star," Eliot says. He squeezes his eyes closed and chants, "Wish I may might have ALL the cars!"

And then he heads for the door, leaving me standing there in wonder.

"I think I did it wrong, Mom," he confides, as we're inside, shucking coats and hats, huddled together in the tiny square of entryway tile, performing the unbundle.

"Nah, Buddy," I say, tousling his hair (hair that looks and feels so much like my own), "I think you did it just right."


My third place.

The new year means new list-making, and one of the lists I've been putting together is a list of subjects I want to write about/scrapbook in the coming year.

One item that's been on my mental version of this list for a long time is to put together a mini-album of people, places, and things I love about my town. In the ten years that I've lived here, Charleston has become home to me. Slowly, but surely, this area has grown on me. It's so very like my hometown, and yet so very different at the same time.

One of the places/people that will definitely be documented in this album is JAC, our local coffee shop. It holds a special place in my heart not only for all the delicious chai I've consumed there, but also for the conversations with friends and work/procrastination I've accomplished there. It's a nice place to sit and grade papers. Eliot likes to get a smoothie and sit at the game table with me playing checkers. He always wins, but that's because he cheats wildly and shamelessly. 

Please pardon the extremely blurry, craptacular quality of these photos, taken with my phone. (A new camera is on my wishlist for 2011.)

Possibly my favorite thing about JAC, though, is the people. From my favorite baristas to the owners, to the other regulars, everyone in this place is so friendly. It really does feel like a second home. Or third, as they describe it: "Home is your first place. Work/School is your second place. Make JAC your third place." Everyone always greets you with a friendly "hello;" no one ever pressures you to get the heck out even if you've been sitting there buying nothing forever. Just writing about it is making me want coffee. Or, more likely, pumpkin or candy cane chai. MMMmmm.

My best JAC experience actually occurred on a day when I didn't even make a purchase. JAC is just off the town square, which surrounds the county courthouse. On the day of my divorce proceedings, I pulled up and parked my car, but was dreading going inside the building. I was already crying, and a quick foraging of my purse and glove compartment for tissues or napkins came up utterly empty. I gazed out my windshield trying to pull myself together, and I looked up at JAC just down the street. I thought, "Sure. I'll run in there to the bathroom and get myself together before I go into the courthouse. They're nice people; they aren't going to mind if I use their restroom." Not only did the owners of JAC not mind that I'd ducked in only to use their restroom, but they also noticed my distress and asked me if I was okay. Not an "Are you okay?" that actually translates to, "What the hell is wrong with you, and why are you bringing your crazy in here?" but rather a genuinely concerned, waiting to listen, "Are you okay?" The overshare being an integral part of my personality, I blubbered something about my divorce and not wanting to go into the courthouse. Dano and Vicki comforted me like we were all old friends, even though I'd only recently started coming into their place regularly. I got hugs and reassurances from them, as well as the little bit of support I needed to gather my strength and go about my business.

That's why I keep going back. I can get a four dollar cup of coffee from Starbucks and their convenient drive-thru window, but JAC gives me so much more. Acknowledgment that I'm a person, not just a customer. Maybe not everyone looking for a caffeine pick-me-up needs that kind of extra validation, but come on? Have you met me? LOL.

Thank you Dano and Vicki, for caring, and Meghan and Kristin, for being the best baristas around! :) 


2010 year in review.

I created a quick year in review page using a free template from Jill Conyers at Life...As I See It. Her blog is very worth checking out if you're into scrapbooking.

I didn't fret about getting a photo from each month of the year; instead, I just featured some of my favorites from throughout 2010. The only change I made to the template was the background color. The original red felt a little too Christmasy for what I was going for.


Embrace the rhombus.

My one word for 2010 was "mend," which turned out to be quite premature, as January saw the pulling of a thread that unraveled my marriage along with so much of who I thought I was and what I thought I wanted to be.

My word for 2011 is "peace."

I think I've taken long strides towards making peace with all that has happened to me and the ways in which I chose to react to those experiences (sometimes with grace, sometimes with anger and spitefulness, sometimes with recklessness and immaturity). I am not without regrets. I have said and done things of which I am certainly not proud. I am kind of okay with that.

To me, having "peace" as my word this year means that I want to concentrate not only on keeping the peace with the father of my son, but with finding peace in my heart. Peace in terms of accepting what I cannot change and embracing the good that has arisen from the painful. No, I never imagined my family would take the shape that it has. I never in a million years thought I would become a single mom, or that I would then have a second marriage. I never envisioned my son having step-parents and a half sibling. That family structure is certainly not what I would have wished for him, never what I intended. As someone I love said recently regarding intentions, "It was supposed to be a square, but it turned out looking more like... a rhombus." ;)

My family may indeed be a rhombus, but you know what? There isn't anything wrong with rhombuses (rhombi?). My son will grow and thrive not in spite of the shape of our family, but because of it. He will grow up surrounded by love, and that is what is important. I am trying to see our divorce and remarriages not as a failure, but as a restructuring. The divorce was a loss, a loss that I will grieve in one way or another forever. I don't believe grief is something that ever disappears. People say time is what makes things better, but no amount of time can erase the past. And frankly, I wouldn't wish for its erasure. I think dealing with grief is more about deciding how you will carry loss, how you allow it to shape you and become a part of you. Out of this particular loss, we all stand to gain.

So here's to acceptance, to PEACE, and to 2011.


An auspicious beginning.

Today marked a fabulous start to the new year. Midnight saw me with a small group of lovely ladies whom I'm proud to call my friends. I then got to come home to Steven, who is quite possibly one of the kindest, most supportive, most emotionally mature men I've ever known. And see, up until meeting him, I thought "emotionally mature man" was some sort of an oxymoron, kind of like "jumbo shrimp." Not so, I've discovered, to my delight.

I had a yummy lunch with my homegirl Tracy (Yes, I just said "homegirl." Because I'm old and I'm a dork. Kiss my ass.) and then we went to see Black Swan, which was just amazing. I loved the way it was shot, the colors, the creepiness factor, Natalie Portman's performance, everything was just flawless. Disturbing and unshakeable. One of those films after which you're driven to sit in the theater until the lights come up, just trying to process it. You want to talk about it all the way home and make everyone else you know see it so that you can discuss it. So yeah, two thumbs up, five stars.

Definitely one of the reasons I got so into the film was because of the subject matter. I danced for many years in my youth. (Listen to me, "in my youth," as though I'm eighty or something.) I was never under any illusion that I would dance professionally. I knew I didn't have the single-mindedness or the drive for that, let alone the physical capacity to go that far. But watching dancers on the stage always reminds me what it was like to perform. My body remembers the pirouette, the fouette, the hot, sharp ache of long leg muscles straining to make their movements appear effortless. I remember the flood of the stage lights in my eyes and the way it felt to give myself over to the moment of performance. All of this may seem absurd, since I gave up dance fairly early, before I turned fifteen. But ballet is powerful; dance is an art form I respect. Watching dancers, true dancers, on the stage tugs at me in a different way than a painting or a photograph, or even a poem.

My own Swan Lake moment was much less dramatic. I still have a photo of me in costume. hahahahaha. That photo makes me laugh my pants off. I look so young and so innocent. Because I was, I guess. So delicate and white swan, posed with my hands stretched above my head in imitation of wings. When you look down, however, you see that my kid self hasn't thought to clean her ballet shoes for the photo. They're light pink, but the leather is cracked and dingy, dirt lining the edges along the top where the laces thread through. I don't remember much about that show, other than being excited that I got to "die" onstage. (I wasn't the swan queen, just a part of her entourage who dies and revives later in the scene.) I thought my dying technique was pretty badass. I totally sold it.

I do remember the headiness when the curtain fell, the rush of applause. I can easily imagine how one could be sucked in by the adoration of an audience, the physical and mental demands of the work, the completely punishing nature of the culture that surrounds it. I find it fascinating.

After the show, I came home to watch the series finale of Six Feet Under. I've been slowly moving through that series all year long. It is easily the best dramatic television series I've ever seen. I loved it. I hated to see it end; the characters have become so real to me that I talk about them as though they're people I know. If you haven't seen Six Feet Under, you have to watch it this year. Add it to your Netflix queue immediately! Two thumbs up!

I give today two thumbs up as well. Five stars for January 1, 2011. Great start to what I hope will be a year full of joy, celebration, much sleeping in, eating good food, seeing good films, being surrounded by good company. I look forward to it.