Card Wars

One of the challenges of being a parent of a teenager is dealing with their vampiric biorhythms.  For whatever reason, they seem wired to stay up all night and sleep all day.  Perhaps there are sound physiological or evolutionary reasons that explain why teenagers don't sleep to the beat of the normal circadian rhythm. I really don't know.  Mother Nature has her unique ideas about appropriate sleep patterns for the teen set, and I have mine.

Because my views on the matter differ from Mother Nature's, my son has been given a parentally appointed bedtime.  And because my IQ lowers by 40 points when I haven't gotten enough sleep, I have given myself an even earlier bedtime.  This means that we have a bit of an honor system arrangement.  As I go to bed each night, I remind my son of his bedtime, to which he responds, "I know."  He then stays up until the clock strikes the magic hour, and dutifully changes his facebook status to, "Edward is slumbering," texts his goodbyes to his other little vampire friends, brushes his teeth and goes to bed.  Night after night this is how it plays out.  Honor system, remember?  

The honor system is what makes this country great.

The other night Edward was due home late, a few hours after I like to go to sleep. In fact, he was due to come home at precisely his parentally appointed bedtime. This meant that in order to follow the rules he would need to walk in the door and go straight to bed.   As I prepared for bed, the slightest sliver of doubt began to poke into my epidermis.  What if the honor system wasn't enough?  What if he got on the computer and stayed up really, really late?  What if he wouldn't get up in the morning and I had to spend all kinds of time and energy trying to wake him, only to have him emerge from his chambers at four o'clock in the afternoon, all disheveled and cranky?  

I had to find a way to take command of this situation.  There must be a way to enforce bedtime from the depths of my own REM cycle.   But how?  A few moments later and I had it!  I knew exactly how to proceed.  A stroke of pure genius.  I would TURN THE COMPUTER OFF and close the lid.  This action would send a very clear message that Mr. Laptop was all tucked in for the night and OFF-LIMITS.  A cunning move I admit, but yet I still had a twinge of doubt. Lifting a finger is usually beyond Edward's normal expenditure of energy, but perhaps he would wish to use the computer badly enough to actually rally his actin and mysosin filaments to conspire together to produce the very muscle contractions needed to push the on button.  Was there something else I could do?  I considered my options.  I could take the computer and  hide it, after all it is but the tiniest of laptops.  I could password the computer, rendering Edward unable to log on.  Good, but not good enough.  "AHA!" I had it. I reached for my stash of index cards; I have a tall stack of them, nice ones, a substantial weight, satisfying to the touch.  Lovely cards, blank on both sides.  I took one of my little beauties and wrote a note, which I placed neatly on the center of the closed computer, squarely over the perky little Apple logo.  

The thick black sharpied letters meant business:  




And with that, I went to bed.

I awoke to find four index cards laid out on top of the computer.  Each was covered with print, margin to margin.  They began:

"Well played.  I must admire your maternal cleverness and your strategically placed 'cardian' minion.  I have decided to obediently yield to your precious paper foot-soldier and go to bed.  Not to sleep.  Ha!  I have also decided to kidnap the remainder of your 'targetas indices' rendering you powerless!  How do you like them apples, Osama?  In case you are not fluent in French or evil masterminds,  here is a translation, 'I HAVE KIDNAPPED YOUR STASH!'  No more conveniently pocket-sized stationary.  Your 3x5 days are over, Buster!  All 543 of your double-blank oxfords...MINE!"

I looked up, horrified.  In the spot where just yesterday sat a generous stack of perfect white paper rectangles, there was now but one card.

It read:


And on the other side,

All gone.

Well played, Edward.  Well played.  

The note continued, now well into the second card, "Somewhere along the process of concocting this ransom note I seem to have transmitted the very same index-ual dependency I set out to destroy .  Oh well.  Regardless, the tables have turned in my favor.  Please note the severed card shoulder to prove my sincerity. (Referring to the torn corner of one of the cards, I presume?)  Oh, silly, silly me!  I almost forgot, what will you note that on? Loose-leaf?  A notebook?  Huh? If you do decide to follow that route, you can note my scoff-age in regards to your primitive notation methods.  On a completely unrelated NOTE...."

Now here is where things start getting weird.

I look to my right and see an stuffed cow with a latex glove on its head.

The note continues, now on its third card, "Allow me to introduce Oscar.  Oscar is the lifeless lump of bovine cloth in the general direction of yonder.  (An arrow points to the right)  Do not be alarmed by Oscar's unique headdress.  Remember! Oscar has a far superior sense of fashion than you.  And now, (We are now well into the fourth card now) that I have managed to fill nearly 60 square inches of index, I shall retire, plump with paper and dehydrated from severe loss of creative juice.  Yours truly (I truly am your son), Your son."

Aha!  I have found his achilles heel.  His excitement over whatever teenage lunacy occurred the night before has worked in my favor.  He has left his creative project on the desk much in the same way a cat leaves a half dead mouse for his master.  It is clear that at some base level, he still trusts and wishes to please his mother.

I grab a post-it note.  (Is this what I am reduced to?  A yellow post-it?)  I grab Oscar.  I leave a note on the lid of the computer:

If you wish to see Oscar again, you will return my cards.

Later, when I return from school, I am greeted with yet another note.  I do not have to describe to you the paper upon which said note was written.

I don't negotiate with terrorists.

We are at an impasse.  I will not reveal Oscar's whereabouts. But I have informed Edward that Oscar is not on the premises and is being forced to spend his days in an unnatural and very uncomfortable position.  But yet, Edward stands his ground.

As for me.  I was left with little choice but to use cards that I had previously cast aside as unacceptable.   I loathe to use the word cards to describe the bastardization of index that they are.  And they had held such promise.  Just moments after arriving home with my brand new school supplies, I eagerly unwrapped them.  When my fingertips met the surface of the newly unveiled card, I flew into a rage.  The cards were a joke.  Their weight thin.  Their fibers course.  A cheap imitation completely lacking in elegance and dignity.

The cards mock me.  Even worse, my son, and truly he is my son, has proven that he can out wit me and out write me.  But at least I have Oscar.

Wanted: Palpation Slave

I am in school studying therapeutic massage. The program is engaging and rigorous and I like it a lot. I think though, that I would like it better if I got me one of those palpation slaves.

You see, I have to memorize a crap-load of muscles. (That is "potty-load" for those of you under 13 years old.) Trust me, there are a lot of muscles in the human body, too many really, more than most of us need, unless you make a habit of doing Olympic caliber gymnastics. Most folks though, the non Olympic Gymnast-types, the types I hang out with, don't really make use of all those muscles that are available to us. This is evidenced by the fact that most of us, 24 hours after taking our first Pilates class, will complain about being sore, saying something to the effect of, "I felt muscles I didn't even know I had." This is my point exactly. I used to be one of those people. I was perfectly ok with not knowing that I had certain muscles. And if, by some bizarre circumstance, a previously unacknowledged muscle made itself known to me, that was ok, I could deal with it. We could even co-exist harmoniously, for a time, as long as the muscle calmed down quickly. But I didn't really feel the need to get to know the muscle on a first name basis. But now, muscle-knowledge-avoidance doesn't cut it anymore. I am required to know all of them by name. And, there are a lot of them. There are flexors, extensors, brevises, longuses and an occasional profundus. There are eight muscles that work our thumb alone. (Eight muscles for each thumb- how 'bout that?) Cool huh? Yeah. It is really cool, unless you have to memorize all of them.

So what I really need is a palpation slave- someone who will hang around for palpation purposes. For instance, when I need to figure out where the flexor digitorum superficialis is, I could poke around on my palpation slave and find it. I would start at the elbow, feeling for the three points of origin, then I would feel along the body of the muscle, following it until my fingers find the tendon that eventually splits in two, in order to allow the flexor digitorum profundus tendon to pass underneath. Oh, it would be a merry time- me and my palpation slave, finding muscles together. Me, dressed in my orange jump suit and he in his loin cloth.

Now don't get me wrong, I would prefer if my palpation slave wore terry cloth shorts and sat on my comfortable couch, eating fancy Ritz cracker sandwiches and watching public television while waiting for palpation time. I would love to take my palpation slave to the movies, or go bowling, but I am smart enough to know that no one would be interested in a gig like that. So, when I advertise for a palpation slave on Craig's List, I will clearly state that the palpation slave will live under the staircase in my basement, eat off the floor and wear a loin cloth. I fully expect be overwhelmed with responses to my ad. Do you know why? Because people are sickos, that is why.

Other people anyway. I just need to learn my muscles.

I Have Read 51 Books in Nine Months, and You Haven't

How many books have you read in the past 9 months?  I read more.  I have read 51 books since Thanksgiving 2007.  That is a lot of books.   

Last year I was on vacation and a friend lent me a book by Jincy Willet, a writer who was brand new to me.  Turned out to be the perfect book for inciting my own personal reading orgy.  First of all, it was a book of short stories- ideal for a commitment-phobe like me who can't be counted on to keep all the characters in a novel straight over the course of 300 pages. A literature snack was just the thing.  But this book of short stories turned out to be so much better than a snack; it turned out to be the most wonderfully written book of bite-size gems I had ever had the opportunity to meet.  As I read, the words filled a hunger for me, and my literature deprivation, a yearning insatiable beast that I didn't even know I had, came roaring to life and politely asked for more.

Over the course of the next week or so, I digested more books.  I was on vacation in a little town and I had time on my hands.  I picked up books from other people's shelves; I made forays to used bookstores.  I judged books by their covers and I read them.  And when I got home from my vacation I decided to get a little more organized with my new reading habit so, in hopes of finding more book recommendations, I did an internet search for the author who had started it all. That search led me to a blog:

The blog is dedicated to the goal of reading 50 books every year and the author shares reviews of her books with her audience.  This was fantastic!   I  had never really looked at a blog before.  I was wildly excited by it, and eagerly added books to my reading list, based on her recommendations.  Inspired by the idea of sharing writing with the world,  I said to myself, "I too will have a blog one day."  But my more immediate goal was to read 50 books over the course of a year.

So I got to reading.  And reading.  I found goodreads.  I started "talking books" with people, hoarding books I purchased at thrift stores, passing along good ones to other people, and piling up books that my reader friends passed along to me.  This reading thing was fun!  And, it was also energizing to have a goal for myself- a challenging one at that, one that I was unsure I could achieve.  In any given year prior I had rarely read more than three books and a short pile of New Yorker magazines.  It took me well over a year to finish Crime and Punishment.  So this goal challenged my self discipline and took me way out of my same-old-same-old.  I lead a happy life, but every year had become pretty much the same for me.  Same house, same job, same vacations, etc...  The book challenge changed things up.  I had a project.  It set my year apart from prior years, made it special, supplied a needed ingredient.  And it was MY project.  It also set me apart from other people.

And that, really, is what this post is all about.  I embarked on this challenge in order to be challenged and to push myself into new territory.  The internal satisfaction that I have experienced as a result of meeting my goal has been very satisfying.  The cool thing is that there is yet more satisfaction to be gleaned from this triumph- the satisfaction that comes from bragging about it.

I read them.  51 of them.   I have the list to prove it.  You spent your year doing other things.  Perhaps you volunteered in a soup kitchen or planted a community garden.  Maybe you graduated from college and got accepted to graduate school with a teaching assistantship or had a scholarly article published.  Perhaps you went to India, or conceived, gestated and birthed a baby.  That is great.  It is really, very impressive.  But, when someone asks you if you read 51 books in the last 9 months, you will have to say, "No, I did not."  

When someone asks me, I will have a different answer.


Don't get me wrong.  I love being a mom.   It has been the most rewarding, interesting and exciting ride of my life. 
There it is, mere millimeters away, a quick glance upward, in black and white; the praises of parenting have been sung.  So now, I am free to say other things, less generous perhaps, but said with the most sincere affection, of course.  The whole truth is that not every part of the job of parenting feels rewarding, interesting or exciting.  There is a certain degree of mundanity that goes along with parenting. There are a lot of cartons of milk to be bought, quite a few spills to sop up, and for the first few years anyway, a whole lot of fastening.

The fastening days are over.  I don't have to buckle my child in or adjust straps or help with zipping coats or anything like that, but as the parent of a teenage boy, it occurs to me that it isn't dramatically unlike having your own SIM. You know the game right?  The SIMS?  It is a computer game in which you, the player, have to manage your SIM family or SIM person- making sure they get up in the morning, eat, bathe and that they don't set themselves on fire or get so depressed when they walk into a badly furnished room that they decide not to go to work that day.  

Brush your teeth, SIM.  Go to bed, SIM.  Get up, SIM.  Go to the bathroom, SIM.  Eat breakfast, SIM.  Go to work, SIM.  

You get the idea.  This is the game.   You try to keep your SIMS happy and thriving, or at least alive.  You have to be careful because if you build a pool without a ladder, your SIM will dive in, swim for awhile and then drown.  If you leave fireworks inside your SIM house, your SIM will light them right where you left them and the house will burn down.  If you don't tell them to clean up their mess, after a short while, flies will swarm about the room.

When I told my son, Evan, that parenting him sometimes feels like I am playing the SIM game, he seemed a little insulted.    But consider the facts.  This able-bodied boy who used to be a responsible alarm-clock setter when he was younger, had gotten up around noon that day because I had failed to wake him up.  At around 3:00 in the afternoon, I asked him if he had eaten.  Despite the fact that we have a well stocked pantry and fridge, he replied, "No."  It didn't occur to him to eat, as I had neglected to tell him to do so.  

He does get up in the morning.  He does eat.  But I have to tell him to do these things.  And asking him once rarely does the trick.   On a given garbage night, I repeat the request so many times that asking my son to dump the garbage could probably be classified as a hobby of mine .  Unlike the computer game, in our three dimensional real-time teenage SIM game, my SIM-Son only responds if he is told to do something over and over again. I believe that he really wants to be helpful, but a bug in his programing prevents him from responding to any request that isn't repeated every 5 minutes for at least an hour and a half.  A possible exception to this would be if I were to ask, in the slightest whisper, from another floor in the house, something like, "Could you turn the volume up on that profane music so that I can no longer hear myself think, please?"  or, "Please place the wet towel on the floor and leave it there."  In fact, he seems to do those things without even being asked.  But any request for something that might be helpful, no matter the delivery, just doesn't make an impression.  As far as the garbage goes, I could either do my ask-and-ask-again ritual, do it myself, or maybe I ought to let the garbage sit there until the inevitable swarm of flies inspires him to dump it.

To his credit, however, we actually have a box of fireworks on top of our refrigerator and he has yet to light them inside the house.

Dating Myself

This might give you an idea of where I am at these days.

I am taking a course in anatomy and physiology and we are studying cells.  The other day, our professor projected an image of a sperm cell on the wall.  I looked at it and the first thought that came to my mind was, "Jerk."

Clearly, right now anyway, dating a man is out of the question.  My solution is to date myself for awhile. My sister and I came up with the idea of dating yourself, an idea so brilliant that it is sure to start a whole movement.  This review of a blind date can shed some light on how it is done:

Date Lab
Dates like this happen every day. Heaven help us.   

Sunday, March 23, 2008;

5:00 p.m., Wegmans, Grocery Store

Sandy:  I thought it a bit risky  to go to my date’s home for the very first date.  But it was Easter and Sandy seemed to be in the same situation as I was.  No family plans or Easter engagements.  When she suggested that we meet at Wegmans, buy food and then go to her house to prepare dinner together, I thought, “Why not”  If I got a creepy feeling from her, I could bolt before we got to her house.  I found her in the produce aisle, picking out artichokes.

Sandy: I recognized Sandy right away from her picture.  She looked nice.  Her hair was up.  She was slender and dressed in jeans, Doc Martens and a vintage coat.  She looked part big city punk, part Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. 

Sandy: She seemed like my type and I was happy to see that she liked artichokes too.  We picked out a couple nice ones, a small baguette, and some cheese.   Sandy insisted on paying for the food, which I thought was nice.  

Sandy: We walked the few blocks to my home.  The weather was mild and sunny.

Sandy: We ended up walking to Sandy's home. I was surprised that we didn't drive.  Maybe Sandy doesn't own a car.  She seems a little out there- one of those environmental vegetarian feminist types.  She had brought her own bag to Wegmans.  I hope she isn't a lesbian.  We mostly talked about the weather.  Turns out her house is pretty close to the grocery store.  Her house was kind of cool on the inside.  I like the way she had it decorated.

Sandy: When we got to my house, I put the artichokes in the steamer and poured a glass of wine.  That done, it was time to get to know my date better.

Sandy: I was a little put off that she hadn't bought a bottle of wine for us; instead she popped a left over bottle out of the fridge.  There was really only enough for a small glass.  Now that I think about it, it was probably better that way.  It is better  if I don't drink too much on a first date.  I have gotten into trouble that way.

Sandy: We talked a bit about the books we are reading.  Turns out that Sandy is an avid reader too.  

Sandy: In the middle of our conversation, Sandy grabbed a book.  She started reading out loud.  The book was interesting and it was fun to discuss the passages she read.  After a while though, she started to read to herself.  I thought that was a little rude, but to be honest, I had spied an interesting book on her shelf, so I grabbed it and started reading too.

Sandy: The artichokes were ready at about 6:30.  We sliced up the baguettes and cheese.  I got worried because it wasn't really much of a meal, more of a light snack.  But Sandy acted very gracious and said the food was delicious.  

Sandy: The appetizer was delicious.  I couldn't wait for the main course.  I was so hungry, especially after walking from Wegmans and waiting so long for the artichokes to cook.  It took me a while to realize that there wasn't going to be a main course.  So, I hung out for a little while longer, to be polite, but then decided to take off.  It was still early and I figured that I could stop somewhere and buy some food for myself.

Sandy: Sandy had to leave earlier than I had expected, but it was a really nice first date.  I'd give the date a 4. I would definitely like to see her again.  She was easy to talk to and I felt comfortable with her.  I had a nice time.

Sandy: Blind dates are always a bit awkward.  This one was a bit strange, but it wasn't too bad.  I would give the date a 3.  I would see her again, but I will wait for her to call or e-mail me.  


Interviews by Loni Carbunkle

UPDATE: Sandy and Sandy exchanged e-mails addresses and phone numbers.  They have sent each other a few funny youtube videos, but they haven't scheduled a second date yet.


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