Saturday, May 19, 2012


I was busy preparing dinner last night when the front door opened and The Boy arrived, scooter in one hand and backpack in the other, home from adventures with friends down the street.  More and more these days, seeing him walk through the door catches me off guard, because he just looks so damn grown.  Not completely, of course - he’s not even in high school yet - but in the past year he has been maturing at a startling speed.  He’s as tall as I am now, lean and lank and boyishly handsome, with just a hint of a moustache developing.  No longer my little boy, but not yet a man.  “’s you,” I teased, feigning disappointment.

He returned the greeting in similar fashion, and casually added, “I think I’m going to need a Band-Aid.”

“Oh dear,” I said.  “What happened?”

“No big deal,” he said.  ‘We were playing outside with sticks as pretend clubs, and I swung a little too hard and cut myself.”  He strode over to the kitchen and showed me his hand; a small cut in the soft area between his thumb and first finger was just barely oozing.  “I wasn’t even sure if I’d need a Band-Aid.”

I resisted an old ingrained urge to take over, to take him to the medicine cabinet and wash his hand and put on a Band-Aid and taa-daa, make it all better.  He’d have probably been insulted anyway, so I just nodded agreeably instead.  “Band-Aids are in the medicine cabinet.  But I’d wash that first.”

“Oh, I already did, but I will again,” he said as he headed off down the hall.  So grown-up sounding, I thought again.  After a couple of minutes, he returned to the kitchen.  “Band-Aids are amazing,” he said, and held his hand out toward me.  “Doesn’t even hurt anymore.”

A moment later, he held out his other hand.  “Oh, and uh, guess what I made?”

In his hands he held what appeared to be a crinkled handful of newspaper, held in place here and there with tape.  “ made a ball of paper?”

The Boy grinned self-deprecatingly.  “Yeah okay, well, it’s wrapping.  Can you guess what’s in it?”

I tried to think of a good smart-ass answer, but couldn’t seem to settle on one.  After a few moments, he let me off the hook.  “It’s....a mug!” he declared, starting to unwind the paper ball.

“A mug?” I repeated.  “That’s kind of...random.  Where did you get a mug?”

“I made it in art class.”  He freed the mug from the wad of paper and held it up.  It was large and ceramic, clearly sculpted and painted by hand.  He gave me an awkward smile.  “And, I thought, maybe, it could be a....delayed....Mother’s Day gift.”

He handed the mug to me, and for a moment I could only stand in silence.  He immediately began cataloging flaws in the mug - the paint had bubbled in one spot, he had trouble getting the handle right, he wasn’t very good at painting, and so on.  As I turned the mug over in my hands, I delighted over the unique little bubbles in the paint, the oddly-shaped handle, the somewhat irregular borders of its painted stripe.  It was a classic Mother’s Day gift.  I even flipped the mug upside-down to find his name carved into the ceramic.

Still holding the mug, I pulled him into my arms for a long hug, and kissed him on the cheek.  “I love it, sweetie.  Thank you.”

“There’s kindofa crack in the side near the handle, too,” he said, looking embarrassed.  “I fixed it a bunch of times, but I could never get it quite right.”

“Well that’s the thing about mugs,” I smiled.  “They’re pretty heavy for the handle.  Hard to make a big mug like this and get the handle just right.  I never could do it myself, but this looks pretty good!”  I hugged him and kissed him again before letting him escape.

That’s The Boy for ya.  Maybe he doesn’t always show his appreciation when and how I might expect, but the appreciation is there.  Maybe he’s a little uncomfortable with sentimentality, but that’s understandable at his age.  Not quite a man, not a little child...but still my little boy once in a while.

Check it out folks, it's a MUG SHOT!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Self-Service Mother’s Day and the Sacrilegious Twinkie

Every Mother’s Day, I miss the days when my kid was in elementary school.  That one special Sunday in May would roll around, and out would come some sort of handmade tchotchke, shyly proffered - a bookmark, a drawing-filled calendar made from construction paper, a tempera-painted plant pot.   Always accepted with gratitude and genuine delight, although I knew perfectly well he was assigned these projects by teachers, who then gently prodded and reminded him all week to hand them over when Mother’s Day arrived.

After the fourth grade, he moved on to intermediate school and then middle school...and all recognition of Mother’s Day stopped completely.  With no prompting or prodding from anyone, he simply ignores it.  Every year it stings, more than it should I suppose, and every year I spend Mother’s Day mildly depressed, irritable, disappointed, and increasingly - rebellious.

‘Rebellious’ just started last year, the second Mother’s Day since The Boy left elementary school.  I didn’t expect much, but I thought, maybe a card.  Or hell, at least an “oh yeah, happy Mother’s Day” - which I eventually got after several hours, and turns out?  That actually makes it worse.  “Ohyeahhappymother’sday” feels a lot like “See, I didn’t forget...I just don’t care.”  So I got up, took my keys, and left the house.  I bought myself a dress at Goodwill - an adorable, bright, cotton summer dress.  I took a friend’s mom out for lunch and girl talk at an amazing vegetarian Indian buffet.  I stopped at the mall on my way home to buy my hair dye absolutely nothing because I am a Natural Green.  I danced in a department store as a professional pianist played Vince Guaraldi selections on a baby grand, I spritzed myself with expensive perfume I would never buy, I sang in the car on my way home, and actually found myself in a pretty good mood that lasted right up until I got home.

When I got home, I holed up in my room with a book I’d been meaning to read, and responded to the intermittent inquiries of “When’s dinner?” with a deliberately obtuse “I don’t know, when IS it?” until they backed cautiously away and ordered takeout.  It was mean and bitchy, and I felt a little bad about it, but Mother’s Day is one day where I feel I’m entitled to the admittedly frustrating and unhelpful “if you don’t know, I’m NOT going to tell you” attitude.  It’s also the one day when “look, just tell us what you want us to do for you and we’ll do it” doesn’t cut it either.  Me dictating the manner in which I am appreciated somehow feels...coerced.  Obligatory.  I suspect that boils down to the equally frustrating “no, I want you to WANT to”, but again, I’m entitled once a year.

ANYway.  Flash forward to this year.  I really expected nothing different, but somehow it disappointed me again all the same.  On top of it all, my friend declined my invitation to repeat last year’s lunch, plus I had signed up to volunteer at the fair trade store in the afternoon anyway.  At least The Boy didn’t even “ohyeah” me this time...leaving me the option to tell myself he’d just completely forgotten, and of course would be simply mortified if he suddenly remembered.  Awesome.

I headed out to the grocery store, but not before donning the same bright, cotton summer dress that I had bought last year.  In the fresh fruit section, a couple of middle-aged women were having a cart-to-cart talk, swapping cute stories of their burnt but well-intentioned breakfasts in bed; I tightened my grip on my cart and sailed past.  As I gathered the last items I would need to cook dinner, I realized I felt a bit peckish myself, and decided to get myself a treat.  Something indulgent, but still a little responsible perhaps?  I wandered briefly past the fair-trade chocolate bars and the vegan-friendly snack, today, that just wouldn't do it.  As I turned a corner, my eyes lit on a display of Twinkies, and immediately my rebellious mood whispered YES.

They weren’t vegan.
They weren’t even vegetarian.
Hell, they weren’t even food, beyond the broad definition of (1) they have a flavor many people find pleasing, and (2) they are manufactured with the express purpose of human ingestion.

I grabbed an individually wrapped Twinkie and dropped it into my cart.

Returning to the car, I slung the grocery bag over to the passenger seat, climbed into the driver’s seat, and rummaged through the bag for my Twinkie.  Oh Twinkie, you evil little temptation, you taste like childhood memories.  Or would....except that I now noticed for the first time the tiny lettering next to Twinkie the Kid on the package, touting the “all-new CHOCOLATE CREAM filling!”

Wait, chocolate cream?  No.  There is NO motherfucking chocolate cream in a motherfucking Twinkie.  Oh, I ate it anyway.  Sat right there in my parked car, in the parking lot of the supermarket, and ate the chocolate cream monstrosity.  It did not taste like childhood.  It did not taste like a Twinkie.  I felt a wave of irrationality crashing over me, one of those grand moments where you know you’re kind of a crazy person right now, on the verge of meltdown over some inane trivial inconvenience.  But I couldn’t help it.  I mean what the fuck, Hostess, all I wanted was one goddamn moment of nostalgic sinfulness.  I don’t eat meat/eggs/dairy, I volunteer, I give money to that nice lady on the corner who collects for the homeless every week, I donate platelets, I study, I work, I take care of my family, and I finally give in to your siren call for just one moment, one brief clandestine affair, and you RUIN it.  The moment’s gone, Hostess, like bitter fucking chocolate cream ashes in my mouth, and I hope you’re happy.  I wanted to march right up to Hostess headquarters in my cotton summer dress of rebellion and hurl baked goods at their windows.

But I didn’t know where the Hostess headquarters actually were, and they were probably far away, and anyway I’d probably get arrested.  Then I’d have to go to court and plead temporary insanity, and my lawyer would call me to the stand and he’d say...wait for it...“Tell ‘em about the Twinkie.”*

I had to giggle at that, and my absurd indignation faded.  The weather was warm and lovely, and my volunteer shift at the fair trade store went smoothly.  The customers were mostly mothers and daughters spending the day together - and I missed my own mom - but my mood remained upbeat.  At home, I cooked dinner, hung out with the fam, and got my usual goodnight hug from my son, still without so much as an acknowledgement.  Oh well.  He’s well-behaved, studious, funny, and generally affectionate and appreciative from day to day.  Some moms would kill to ‘settle’ for that.

Happy Mother's Day!  May I interest you in some scrapbook paper made from elephant dung?

Next year - no expectations.  Well okay, it’ll probably still hurt my feelings a little.  But from now on, I'm just planning on it being me, my car keys, and my Cotton Summer Dress of Rebellion, going out and celebrating Whatever-Mom-Fucking-Feels-Like Day.  Or to put it more diplomatically, Self-Service Mother’s Day.  Oh, yeah.

* The PVP guys were is always a good time for a Ghostbusters quote!

"Cotton Summer Dress of Rebellion, what are you rebelling against?"  "Whaddya got?"
 ...okay, I was going for the wall-leaning disaffected look, but I think I missed it somewhere.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Silly Calamity, Games Are For Kids!

You may or may not be aware, as I have again allowed my blogging habit to lapse for a significant period of time, that I have decided to eschew fear and uncertainty and enroll in college for my dream career; namely, I want to code video games.  Specifically, I have a passion for all things Bioware, and if daydreams come to pass, someday I’ll be livin’ the dream in Austin, Texas, programming logic and AI for insanely cool action RPGs.  (Also, because it’s MY daydream, they’ll also ask me to do voice acting for the RPGs, and I will meet Brandon Keener, and garner a geek fan base on Twitter, and banter playfully with Felicia Day and get paid to attend every PAX and hang out with Wil Wheaton.  But really, I’ll settle for the former.)

But although I have embraced my path, I still find myself hesitating to answer when people ask, “What are you studying?”  Because we all have that inner voice that tells us we’re being selfish, or silly, or just plain says They’re all gonna laugh at you!  Because having ‘video games’ anywhere in your career objectives is childish, Calamity.  Right?  You’re a grown woman, on the backside of 30.  You have a nearly teenage son of your own.  Go to nursing school, or get a business degree.  Do something safe and sensible.  Generally, it’s all in my own head; people I’ve mentioned my plans to have responded positively, and I’ve started to think I’m just completely imagining that anyone still considers video games the sole demesne of children.

Well, not entirely.  Coming home from math class this morning, I stopped at the grocery store for dinner ingredients, and ended up in a conversation with a cashier who has always been very friendly and conversational with me.  She asked how I was; I said I was doing okay, but a little tired of school and looking forward to the winter break.  She asked what I was majoring in.

“Video game development,” I said.  “Well, the coding side of it, specifically.  Programming.”

There was a long pause as the cashier regarded me as though perhaps I were in the process of growing a second head.

“ want to.....what, make video games?”  I indicated that I did.  “Well.  That’s...different.”

Different?  “Oh I dunno,” I said lightly.  “There are a lot of game studios out there.  Some of the bigger ones have hundreds of staff members working on the major projects.  Someone else is out there doing it for a living.”

The perplexed look intensified.  She didn’t carry on with her cashiering or make any pretense of doing so.  She simply stood and stared as if I now indeed had a fully-formed second head, one that was wearing a pompadour wig and reciting the digits of pi.

“So, you know, I’m gonna...gonna work for Bioware someday, big studio in Austin.”  I shifted uncomfortably.  “Never see snow again.”  Still staring.  “‘Cause, I, hate snow...”

I gave up and turned my attention to the debit card reader.  She seemed to visibly shake it off, and snorted.  “Oh, you just wanna play video games all day long.”

Hardly,” I said, finally miffed.  “Programming is hard work and long hours.  I’ll be building the games that people play.”

“Well...have a nice day!”

The average gamer age is, well, my age.  Games are a multimillion-dollar industry.  There are children’s games on the market, but there are also decidedly adult games.  E-rated and T-rated and M-rated games, shooters and strategy and role-playing games, often with stories better than the average summer blockbuster movie fare.  Games that bring people together.  Games that make you think, make you cackle, maybe even make you cry.  Games are emerging as a legitimately mainstream entertainment like movies.  I’m willing to bet if I’d told her I was majoring in filmmaking, she wouldn’t have reacted as though I’d told her I was majoring in Pony Riding and Ice Cream (I wonder how much advanced calculus, physics, and programming are involved in Pony Riding and Ice Cream?).  Perceptions are changing...but yes, I suppose there are some who still think video games are a kiddie vice.

Still, I look at it this way...finally, one person reacted the way I was always afraid people would.  And it didn’t feed into my insecurity; it made me dig in and defend my choice.  Hells yes, world.  I am Calamity, I am Your Mom, I am almost thirty-seven gorram years old, and I want to eat ice cream and ride ponies develop video games.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Things To Do Today


Send birthday card

Get honey from farmers' market

....destroy world with world-destroying robot??

Ah, the chalkboard. It first appeared in my blog at its purchase, two and a half years ago, and it's seen a lot of fact, last year I painted over it with chalkboard paint, changing its classic school green to black, but restoring its writeability after one of the kids decided white crayon would work just as well and ruined the surface. However, since our move last summer I had yet to put it up in a good high-traffic location. Finally, I had some free time yesterday and decided to hang it up near the recycling bins, where I could keep a daily reminder list of things to do that I would see often. Only took me a year! And the comedy opportunites began again immediately.

My child hates art class, shuns crayons, and can only be coaxed to spend his time drawing somewhere around Day 3 of a total blackout, when he's run through every other non-electric entertainment available including "watch Mom's plants grow". Yet he can never seem to resist the siren call of the chalkboard.

The funny thing is, he asked me what to draw. I said a puppy. No really, the conversation went something like this:

Duncan (watching me write my to-do list): Can I draw something on the chalkboard? I'll draw something for you. Go ahead. You tell me what to draw, and I will draw that for you, whatever you want.

Me: Okay, a puppy!

Duncan: Ugh, no.

Me (resigned anticipation): Robot with a laser?

Duncan: OKAY!!

I went off to cook dinner, and later in the evening, sure enough, there he was. My robot with a laser, just under "get honey from farmer's market". And I do have to say, he's a pretty swell robot. I mean come ON. He's not only got a laser, but "power of destroying worlds", an alternate laser charger, a laser drainer (ha, ha!), and rocket shoes. Then, because destroying worlds totally needs a great soundtrack, he's all set to go with a boombox arm handily installed. And yes, he's saying "Die, butthole!" in the picture.

But I'm pretty sure a daughter would have drawn me that puppy. With a rainbow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mi Cabeza Está Quemada!

I have a new toy, and you can find it as well at Edufire! I've been wanting to learn foreign languages, particularly Spanish and Japanese, for a long time now. Growing up in Arizona, I knew some Spanish - not a lot, but enough to hold my own in a very basic conversation - but I've lost most of it over the years. I don't really have the money or the opportunities in this area to attend classes, and I find I just do not learn well on my own. Intrigued by this fairly new service, I signed up for their Superpass and got started with some Spanish classes.

What an experience. In one class I attended, it was only me and one other student. In the second, I was the only one there. And this tutor made us talk...constantly. It was so uncomfortable. I struggled every minute. I felt like my head was going to spontaneously burst into flames and I wrestled my brain for every word. It's like that dream you have where you have to give a speech in class and you've forgotten your notes, and everyone is staring at you. In your underpants.

And I think this is exactly what I need.

Because this is why so many of us never get very far, isn't it, with our Spanish for Dummies and our Learn in Your Car CDs. We learn it, we read it from the pages of the textbook, but we get far too few opportunities to put it to use. And when we do, we shy away. Attempting to speak a foreign language we don't know well makes us feel lost, ignorant and foolish. I could be using what little Spanish I know to order at the Mexican restaurant, or to speak to the cashier at the local mercado I occasionally visit. But I'm so afraid I'll drown in the ensuing conversation, I chicken out. And there's no chickening out with this tutor. For a solid hour, he speaks almost nothing but Spanish, and neither do I, though I don't understand 100% and every fiber of my being is screaming to escape. In English, this is the sort of thing you would have heard in my class, with occasional corrections and gentle prodding:

Teacher: And what did you do today?
Me: the store...and wash, no, washed...the clothes.
Teacher: Do you go to the laundromat? Or do you have a washer and dryer?
Me: I...have a washer and dryer.
Teacher: And did you dry the clothes in the dryer? Or did you hang them to air dry?
Me: Uhhhhh....uhhhhhh....what does "hang" mean? (he writes the verb and translation on the screen). Oh, no, I don't to hang, uh, hang the clothes. I...dry...I....dried...the clothes in the...dryer.....

And so on. A painful, hair pulling process, and one I've always shied away from, but this is how I'm going to learn. I'm sure of it.

They have a variety of other classes as well, from mathematics to health classes, but these are just starting to come about - those pickings are still slim, and the main focus of the website so far is language classes. You can attend a 'class', or you can request one-on-one tutoring. You can pay per class, or there are many classes that qualify for the "Superpass", a monthly fee for unlimited classes. All you need is a computer, internet access, and a headset or microphone (I would strongly suggest a headset). Webcam is optional - some tutors use it and like to be able to teach face-to-face, but a lot don't.

So if you always wanted to take a class or get some tutoring but didn't have the resources out in the "real world", check it out. And if, like me, you're a struggling beginner wanting to practice your Spanish (though he has other skill level classes as well, from the very beginnings to the more advanced), look for "Enrique", my delightfully relentless profesor, and join me in one of his beginner/intermediate classes. No, really, I need the company so he's not talking to me the entire time!

Nos vemos allí!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dental Attraction

So, I've been putting off seeing a dentist for a long time, but I've been having some pain in a few teeth and think I need a bridge - I've had this gap since I had a tooth pulled a dozen years ago and my teeth are getting out of alignment around it. I picked a dentist from my plan and went in yesterday, they took x-rays and I'm going in tomorrow to see the results and discuss what we need to do.

Today I got a small envelope in the mail from them. Amused, I figured they probably have one of those reminder setups that automatically sends you a card before an appointment. Kinda unnecessary this time, but whatever. So I open it.

It's a note, clearly handwritten in ballpoint. It says:

"Dear (Calamitybird),

Just a short note to let you know how much we appreciate having you in our practice.

We value you not only as a patient, but also as a friend.

Yours truly,
Doctors and Staff at Comfort Dental"

So...I saw them for the first time ever yesterday morning, and this must have been in the mail by afternoon. I have to say, I found it a little weird. I mean, I like you, Comfort Dental, but we just met. But Comfort Dental would like me know that already they feel a deep connection. They understand me the way those other dental providers don't. Comfort Dental is sure that they are the only dental provider for me, don't you see? If I were to end it now, surely I would find the Doctors and Staff at Comfort Dental standing under my window, Peter Gabriel blaring from the boombox held defiantly over the heads of the Doctors and Staff at Comfort Dental.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Maybe it's just good old-fashioned customer care, and it's just my imagination that the wording is a little...stalker-esque.

Then again, when my husband passed my desk earlier I saw him pause, peruse the creased little stationery note, and declare, "That's creepy."

Monday, August 31, 2009

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Brick

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that I was growing up too fast. She also used to tell me she was going to tie a brick to my head so that I wouldn't grow anymore. As I grew even older and taller, she'd lament that she hadn't used the bricks, telling me she was going to order me to fail all my classes in school so that I would never graduate and move away. Through all her sentimental protestations, I simply rolled my eyes.

Then before I knew it, I was a grownup, then a wife, then a mother. My own son was born, and by the time he was a preschooler I was telling him the same thing. Well, not the bricks - that was my mother's thing. No, my approach was more hands-on.

"You're growing too fast!" I'd say. "I'm going to squish you so you stay little." I would then put my hands on top of his head and press down, lightly of course, but making a big show of effort and plenty of "hurrrrggghhhh!" sound effects. Giggling, he'd crouch down, and I'd let go in triumph.

Moments later, he'd pop back up as though spring-loaded. "NOPE, I'M STILL GROWING!" he'd squeal delightedly, while I pouted and stomped my foot.

Folks, I've been more than usually sentimental about it this year. Maybe it's because he turned the big 1-0. Double digits. Out of elementary school and on to intermediate school. And while I know I've been watching this happen every day, seen every one of those years from birth to ten pass before my eyes, it still feels like he's grown up behind my back somehow. He makes me laugh often now, not in a "Kids Say the Darndest Things" kind of way, but with real wit, intention, and a keen sense of satire and comic timing. We have conversations these days that are less mother/little kid and more conversations that I would have with anyone, talks about beliefs and politics and day-to-day stuff.

Anyway. I was running errands today, all the little here and there mini-quests that I've been putting off. I finished up at the post office - just around the corner from Duncan's new school - around the same time that school was letting out. So I was driving home past the school during the mass exodus of wave after wave of children. Waiting at the traffic light, I looked off to my left and sure enough, I saw my little man.

I wasn't there to pick him up. He was unaware of my presence. And sitting alone in my car at that moment I had this weird feeling like I was looking through a window into his private, increasingly independent world, his world outside that didn't include me. He was just walking down the street, confident of his own way, bookbag slung over his shoulder, chatting and laughing with friends on his way home. And suddenly I had something in my eye, because dammit, he looked so grown up. Not my little one, but a pre-teen, all Wonder Years and stuff. The light changed, and I drove on without alerting him.

Mom, you were right. We all grow up too fast. I rolled my eyes at your sentimentality, just as I'm pretty sure Duncan now rolls his eyes at mine. I'd say I can't wait until he has a child of his own and understands it himself, but you know what? I can. I really can.