Monday, June 29, 2009

Health care reform is not good for my health

My friends may be happy to know that I made a pact with myself last night never to speak about health care reform over food and drink again. I promise to listen and nod and be polite, but no more me with the talking. Trying to "solve" American health care over dinner leads to indigestion and 2a.m. recriminations about my argumentativeness. A group of us meet occasionally to talk politics and generally are in agreement on most issues but the revamping of health care has us stumped and me feeling defensive over the finger pointing at providers. What can I say? I'm loyal to my peeps. It all feels like we're speaking from the personal when we talk about where we need to go from here.

It remains a puzzle how Congress sitting on opposite sides of the aisle is going to find a compromise to put forward to the public when our little homogeneous group has trouble finding a common place to start the cuts. The change in culture for all Americans around health care spending when it comes down to the personal is a two-generation initiative and we don't have that kind of time...a family member's last days cut short by spending caps, a bone marrow transplant denied to one's child, one's own knee or hip surgery scheduled eighteen months out with only the powers of Motrin to keep one's mobility in the meantime....who will be the first to be denied the kind of outrageously immediate and costly care to which we've grown accustomed and that has become an inalienable right in our minds? And where to begin dismantling the graft and the corruption and the fraud at so many levels? I woke up feeling somewhat disappointed that I wasted my precious minutes with these fun friends arguing probably an indefensible position practically speaking, when I could have been enjoying my delicious carnitas discussing Mark Sanford, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Billy Mays and Bernie Madoff. So many scandals, so few dinners.

So, nothing else to do but move forward in search of more delicious food today. Unemployment without true financial worries (yet anyway) has left me little choice but to dedicate at least a few hours a week to healthy living as a virtuous endeavor in an otherwise decadent lifestyle....P. O. P. (Problems of the Privileged) As I hate to exercise, trickery and food are generally involved in getting myself moving. Like a greyhound at the track, I need to be lured toward my goals by the promise of a juicy bunny to chew on. A few friends introduced me to a lovely and here is the key word, level bike path that cuts across the city and the Isthmus almost directly to one of my favorite places to eat in Madison, Lazy Jane's. It's a Willy Street staple for joltingly good morning coffee, scones and cooked breakfasts. When your breakfast is up, the cook screams your name in a baritone caterwaul that shakes the rafters--"JUUUUUU-LIE!" "ALLLLL-I-SOOOON!" It's a fanciful place with delicious food and funky folks and worth the 19 mile bike ride for the promise of a blueberry scone.

Chip and I always ask the girls to come along on a family bike ride for our own amusement just to see the facial expressions of horror. But not today. Ally surprisingly agreed to come along largely because she was hungry but also confident that the ride would go unwitnessed. "It's the east side of town....none of my friends will see me." Hey, we'll take the love where and how we can get it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Paco and the mysterious odor

It's nearly one hundred degrees today and although the a.c. is on now, it was off a few days ago and the humidity unlocked from our carpeting the foul stench of our family's own unique miasma. Softball cleats, wet dog, dry dog, teenage feet or dirty socks (take your pick), sweat, puke, warm wet garbage in the disposal, armpits...all represented in a complicated bouquet with a delicate finish of cat pee emanating from Ally's carpet during our cat's recently diagnosed bladder infection. While dog accidents clean up with little or no real lasting odor, I agree with my friend Cathy who likens cat pee to nuclear waste. Its half life is incalculable and it is just easier to sell your house than deal with it. I think ten years ago I might have been embarrassed by this idea that our house smells bad sometimes but I know enough families with pets and kids to understand this is family life, love it or not. We're doing all we can to keep control around here. Now why Ally's room smelled the worst was perplexing but we chalked it up to a targeted hate campaign by the cat wreaking havoc on the youngest child.

Unrelated to recent global warming issues, I cleaned the insanely neglected hamster cage yesterday because I felt bad for poor, ignored, tiny Paco (although no animal has ever been happier by the looks of him). Late last night, I wandered into Ally's room to commune with her stuff (she's at camp) and say a phantom goodnight to her and I strangely found her room odor free. Now this is an odor that has prevented friends and mothers from visiting her in her room for the past two months so its absence was as noticeable as the smell itself. As I am a genius, a bit of sleuthing and checking of vent placement in her room and Paco's across the hall, I quickly connect the hamster cage room vent and the prevailing cross breezes and tail winds of chez Hunter and voila, I have found ze killer! A small victory.

Relief and major kudos to my brilliant deductive mind that quickly turns to panic as I realize we have just contracted with a flooring company to replace supposed urine soaked carpet (which it now appears is not) with wood flooring to the tune of thousands of dollars. Blurgh.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer jobs

Yesterday I sat over many glasses of wine at a graduation party while catching up with a friend. Hmmm. Drunk by 3pm, possibly a pitfall of the summer without a plan? Looking for a job in the summer feels counterintuitive and is an uninspired pursuit. I'm finding myself worrying that somebody WILL CALL about an interview, rather than NOT CALL about an interview....that can't be a good sign.

I am reminded of the quirky nature of summer employment as I watch these high school graduates make their summer plans. The movie Adventureland is an homage to the bizarrely intimate nature of summer employment and how those intense relationships of summer fade and droop and burn out like the ferns of my garden in late summer.

Mamas of Graduates Past and Present

The summer after my high school graduation, my friend Susan secured both herself and then me, waitressing jobs at a Greek diner in the French Quarter. Poor Susan, a Valerie Bertinelli ringer way prettier than me...occasionally mistaken for my sister due to our matching outfits and her inability to wear her contact lenses because of the flying grease. Brown hair, glasses, bad black pants...a la A Big Fat Greek Wedding, we must be the owner's dowdy daughters--we didn't think we looked very Greek or even alike save the color of our hair, but tourists may have wanted the image of a family restaurant and ickily nothing could have been further from the truth. Later that summer, I was propositioned by the owner that lovemaking, like dancing, requires a good teacher and he was just the man for the job. He had framed velvet art in his apartment above the restaurant and while I'm not happy to report that I know that much, I am happy to say I don't know more.

That summer, I learned valuable information about the world such as the hallucinogenic properties of Ouzo and how after several glasses, customers may need to be pushed across the tile floor in their chairs to the door and tipped gently forward onto the sidewalk, hopefully remaining upright. I also learned Lowenbrau is not an imported beer--the name is deceiving in its Germanness. And I learned that guys who work in diner kitchens can be alternately extremely creepy and also quite dear in their caretaking to overload your sandwich with extra Gyro meat to take home after your shift.

It was exciting and fun to work with regular f*cked up grown-ups in what grew to be a community for us, that being the merchants and workers of the FQ...our friend Leslie worked across the street and we would wave across Decatur during our shifts and meet after work for drinks or beignets at Cafe du Monde like you do.....and then it was August and we took our tips and went off to college and I never really looked back. Like sculpture, new molds cast new originals that might look very similar but aren't at all the same. The following summer we saw new girls sitting in the windows at the restaurant and the past was the past. I'm speaking for Susan here and perhaps she might chime in on her post Mr. Gyro experience as it might feel different than mine.

I worked again as a waitress after college in yet another Greek diner and I wish I had taken notes at the time to help me remember the thrillingly edgy women that worked there. Beautiful Eve, a teenage mother with an artist's hand, a supermodel's face and a magnet for men who hit women, which was not an uncommon trait of most of the waitresses I worked with that summer. Big Pat and Little Pat. Frannie. Annie. Beth and Marlena. And good old Betty, the head waitress, who had me reach into her purse once to get her sewing kit and grabbing the first hard squarish thing I felt, I pulled out a handgun. Good times. By the end of the summer, even this little college graduate girl who ironically never graduated from the crappiest station in the restaurant, felt like part of a family--a really scary family. Adventureland indeed.

Well, good luck to the high school graduates of 2009. May your last summer before college be full of fun and adventures but be careful where you put your hands and beware the velvet panther.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

High school here we come

The final hurrah. 8th grade graduation comes and goes. Plenty of dry eyes in the house unlike many graduations and milestones. Parents and kids ready to move forward to high school. Teachers ready to be done with these 14 year old peevish know-it-alls. It's past time for them to go.

Fresh eggs looking to their future

Two high school students in our family now. I get a pit in my stomach when I remember how close I was to wanting another baby about seven years ago and what it would feel like to still have a kid in elementary school. The worries about teachers and friends and number facts. I don't have anything left! My friend Natalie and I have a theory that our waning estrogen actually makes us unsafe with younger children. Our attention wanders as the toddlers play with the knobs on the stove.

"Has anyone seen the baby?"
"He was in here a minute ago..."
"Where did I set my wine glass?"

Now that the Den of Slack Shack is open, I've got a summer full of mornings to myself. I have got to get a plan. Facebook is not a good plan.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rocking it out with Jag 4

Last night, my family was invited to a very sneak preview of an up and coming rock band. Their world premiere isn't until Friday but as groupies (that would be friends, family and neighbors) we were treated to their last rehearsal of their original composition. They worked it out. Jag 4 rules.

After the concert, I crawled around for two hours on a gymnasium floor with other moms, making huge paper murals to be hung in two days for the eighth grade dance. Why kids this age have been excused from planning and decorating their own dance eludes me. My knees say it's a bad policy. I'm told the parents "throw the party to celebrate the kids and their accomplishments." Because they finished their last year of middle school? The parents, that being five or six of us in total "celebrating" 150 kids? As a beloved teacher has said repeatedly to her students, "Really, folks? ". This is an event for young and pliant joints to plan and execute.

The last few weeks of school. Nobody in my house knows what they need right now, including me. Screaming lyrics about a boy and his dog into a microphone might actually feel like a good release. A quantity vs. quality time of the year for parents. Everything feels last minute and crisis averting, from studying for finals to getting ready for band concerts, dances and banquets. It could just be girls, but I believe the colic returns in adolescence. The arsenic hours from 3-5pm daily....crying, writhing, physical and mental discomfort, parents at their wits' end. Food doesn't help. Soothing doesn't help. Reasoning certainly doesn't help.

I have a fantasy of reinstituting the double stroller and the nap. Strapping Ally in the minute she walks in the door in the afternoon and before she can unleash her fury, giving her a Sippy cup and a baggie of goldfish and taking a long walk down to the high school to pick up Olivia. I can push them through the neighborhood while their complaints get lost on the wind. I used to push faster and faster until the pull of the Gs on their faces was too much for them and they fell asleep. Some parental strategies need retooling as kids grow up. Keep them moving to avoid the screaming.

I think managing a rock band comprised of second graders could be a welcome distraction for me right now and I might see about hitching my wagon to their rising star.

New challenges will present themselves once school is out and the Den of Slack opens. But we are ready for this school year to be done. It has felt like two years in one.