Friday, May 30, 2008

Holy Mother, It's Online

I got an email just now from one of my favorite grrrls, Gina (mother of my fashion consultant, Lily), saying she saw my shopping video online and it looked GREAT (her emphasis).

I immediately began hyperventilating and asked the kids to begin preparations for CPR and my premature death by public humiliation. And then I paced, wondering if I could bear to see myself on video. In case you're new and don't know what I'm talking about, read my last post first for the scoop!

It helped that Gina said it looked GREAT. I mean, as one of my favorite grrrls, she has to say it was fine, or good, or even a 'great' sans CAPS. But her CAPS insertion gave me a wee bit of hope that if it wasn't fabulous, at least it wasn't *horrid*.

So, breathing into a paper bag, clutching my kids' arms to steady myself lest I pass out, and offering the occasional shriek, I watched it. And then I watched it again. And it's not horrid. It's not fabulous, but it's not horrid.

But you'll notice I get all discombobulated at the apple section.

And my kids are still laughing about what I said in the orange section. Brady is now marching around the house shouting, "If the oranges are not organic, I WILL NOT BUY THEM! And YOU SHOULDN'T EITHER!" Apparently, he thinks what I said is just a hoot and a half. The twerp.

So, if'n you're so inclined, go
HERE to see what all the fuss is about.

Ok, now I have to go lie down. Seriously. I need more organic chocolate.

With a side of chest paddles.

P.S. Is my face really that big?
P.P.S. Is that really how my voice sounds?
P.P.P.S. Let's play "I Spy" - watch for my husband zipping by upstage!
P.P.P.P.S. Jonathan thinks the "I would agree with what Dennis said" part is just hilarious. He's now wandering the house muttering, "I would agree with what Dennis said" over and over. The little twerp.
P.P.P.P.P.S. Will someone come stroke my hair and whisper 'there there' in my ear?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Shop, and then A Drop

Guess what yesterday was? Need a hint?

You guessed it - it was my debut as a web actress. (And just why does that sound, um, inappropriate?) So there's me. In my favorite produce market, the 320 Store. Waiting for my big debut as a stilted, inarticulate, robotic-sounding actress. They told me to be stilted, inarticulate, and robotic-sounding, actually. Something about "keepin' it real." I think they sensed that I would be way too adept as an actress and they wanted the videocast to show someone normal, someone real, someone others could relate to. So I did my best to quell my inner diva and tried to sound nervous and uncouth and very, very plain.

And that's all just to say, "Egads - put a camera in front of my face and I lose feeling in the upper half of my body." And for those who need more detail, that includes not only my lips, but the nerve endings in my face, as well as the neural pathways that connect my brain to my mouth. Apparently, you need those neural pathways connecting your brain to your mouth to speak in complete, understandable sentences. Who knew?And that's all just to say that while I waited for my turn at getting interviewed, and while my husband and kids (whom I'd forbidden from coming into the store, mind you) were creeping around shelves and boxes to snap pictures of me getting my picture taken, I mostly looked and felt like this:And that's all just to say the only coherent thought running through my panic-addled brain at the time was, "ohmygosh whyamIdoingthis Imustbehigh whodoIthinkIam excusemesirbutcanIseeitfirst IthinkIjustwetmyselfalittle."I was pleased to see that, as evidenced by this freakishly up-close close-up, that while my non-existent colorist missed a few gray spots, my non-existent make-up artist actually did a fine job of covering up the mountain range of zits that had emerged across my chin the day before. But then, because my glory is always notoriously short-lived, Brady gushed, "His camera is HD! COOL!" And then I told my friend that Brady had gushed, "His camera is HD! COOL!" And then my friend said, "Oh, you mean the one that makes actresses freak out and get their faces carved off weekly and eat only raisin-halves for days at a time because it shows every little thing? That HD?" And then I said, "Wh... wh... whu?!?" And then I cried a little bit.

My family thought it was hilarious to stalk me throughout the store as I did my nonchalant robotic acting shopping. So it went a little something like this: The camera man (who, this being his first-ever video gig, was as nervous as me) would ask me to start at point A and walk with my cart to point B, with A being the apple section, for example, and B being the orange section. So I, with my acting finesse, would do that. And it was hard, people, an extremely challenging assignment. And when I'd get around the corner from point A to point B, I'd find something like this peering at me, from behind a crate of red leaf lettuce:

And then I'd go from stoic, composed, spot-on stilted, inarticulate, and robotic to giggling, distracted, and confused. I can hear the editor now - "Why did she keep laughing at nothing?!?"

Perhaps they should have video-taped Rob, who was actually shopping. Rob probably just ambled from aisle to aisle, squeezing avocados and thumping melons, blissfully blase without an HD camera honing in on his every zit move.

I mean, look at him! These are the perfect shopping shots! Take him, kind sir, please-oh-please I-beg-of-you, take him.

Here's Rob shopping in the nut aisle. Incidentally, that's also where Jonathan could be found - waiting in the wings to make this face at me:as they tried to get a shot of my hands while I placed roasted almonds into my cart:

By the time I got home, not only did I have to change my shirt because I've yet to find an armpit diaper vendor, but I emptied my box of produce with all the child-like awe and wonder of a kid at Christmas. Why? Because I honestly had no clue what I'd purchased.

I think I got so into character was so glazed over with fear, I just operated on auto-pilot, doing exactly what the rookie camera man told me to do. It wasn't until I got home that I realized I'd purchased organic brown sugar at $3.99 a pound, an item I neither need nor knew they stocked. What compelled to me to grab that item for my basket rather than one of the other 152 products I actually need, I don't know. I also bought only four apples instead of our usual 8-10, pecans that I don't really like, and I forgot to get another 17 items that were on my list. When I get that nervous I feel a bit out-of-body.

Apparently I was a bit out-of-shopping-sense too.

I'm going to crawl into the fetal position now and wait for the site's debut in a few weeks. Please send chocolate.

Organic chocolate, of course.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Grrls, Grrls, Grrls

Did I get your attention with that title? I bet I did. Just like I unknowingly got the attention of my co-panelist at the conference last weekend by being an unschooler. It's humbling to offend people with your very existence. But that's another story for another time.

I recently had the opportunity to retreat with my favorite grrrl friends again. Actually, it's not so much that I had the opportunity, it's that I made the opportunity. We learned several years ago that if we want some grrrl bonding time, we have to take it. And take it again. And keep taking it. And eventually, our husbands who wonder "but what do you DO the whole time?" grow to expect rather than dread it, and our kids who wonder "you're going again?" grow accustomed to occasional breaks too. It helps that I've coached them on how best to utilize the time I'm away; namely, by road-tripping it to St. Louis, eating lots of junk food straight from the bags, and burping and passing gas and being loud and obnoxious for long periods of time. I figure they can get it out of their systems while I'm not around and then we're all more likely to cohabitate easily until the need for grrrl-time builds up in me again and the need for willy-nilly off-gassing builds up in them again. (No pun intended.)

Enough about farts. On our retreats, it's all grrrl stuff! And by that I don't mean nail polish and facials; nah, we're more about homemade rituals, long walks, art projects, and laughing until our sides ache. We mix the irreverent in with the sacred and it makes for a mighty fine swirl. This time, our main projects were love stories and prayer flags. Throughout the day on Saturday we took turns telling our marriage stories. That was fascinating, and added many more layers to our already-deep connections and understanding. Nothing like telling your marriage story (or two ;-) to paint the 'big picture' in much deeper shades of color. We brought our photos and we stared at our young, expectant faces, and we laughed and groaned and, in my case, turned a deep shade of red more than once.

The prayer flags came next. I'd seen prayer flags on etsy and had an "Aha!" moment, so we all brought fabric and embellishments and got busy. We each made 11 copies of our flag and traded them when finished. Many of our grrrls were absent for this part so we left extra string to add their flags later. I've never been much of a crafter but I have found such joy in creating art with these women.

I love this picture of Joan. It captures her raw beauty. And look, she's doing fabric art! I know, honey, I know, but you did good. You did reeeeeal good. It's over now.

There's a rotating exhibit at Sinsinawa where we retreat and this time it was "Women Who Make Our Clothes" by Janet Essley. It was a humbling and lovely exhibit with paintings of women and placards explaining who they are and under what horrid conditions they toil. Along the walls were fabric dolls and we were invited to clip the tags from our clothing, pin them on, and then mark on a world map where our clothing had been made. It was quite a powerful exhibit.
Could Diane & Laura be any more lovely? And they're even lovelier on the inside.

As usual, our altar was absolutely perfect. The altar is one of the things I tend to forget about until I arrive, only occasionally remembering a special something to add. But the other grrrls have it covered, as you can see. It was just so lovely.

And there's always the labyrinth... our marriage stories and prayer flags took a long time so we walked the grounds less than usual, but the labyrinth is always one of my favorite things to do. I've been ruminating on how to build one in my yard for some time now - any suggestions on getting donated materials? - and I just can't get enough of this outdoor labyrinth.

I am so very blessed to have these amazing grrrls in my life!

Quieter Than Usual

I've been quiet lately. On my blog, that is. I don't know what my deal is, other than to grudgingly admit this is one of the reasons I don't hold a full-time job. Mostly, it's because I don't WANT to. I want to unschool with my kids. But partly, I must admit, it's because I seem to be thoroughly incapable of doing anything regularly for the long haul. Well, except laundry, and I do that grudgingly on many-a-day. Ok, and marriage, but that ain't always a walk in the park either. But all I have to do to stick with the laundry regimen is get to the point where I realize the underwear isn't going to wash itself and I do it. And all I have to do to stick with my marriage is consider the alternative. I've witnessed enough nasty, painful, never-ending divorces to realize it has to be bad - really, really, REALLY bad - for that to look better than this. And then we get to work.

But the fact is, I'm not much of a stick-to-it kinda grrrl. The upside to that is a lovely, serendipitous life, where things change often enough that we don't grow stagnant and bored. (That sounds good.) The downside is, well, that I tend to binge-and-burn-out. I embrace my new passions with all the giddiness of a newlywed arranging her new china in her new kitchen. And for a while, sometimes a long while even, I dive head-long into my latest interest and explore it inside, outside, upside down and backwards. And then... well, then.... I.... peter... out...

I don't know if it's the 'binge' part of binge-and-burn-out that causes me to peter out. Perhaps there's no balance to my life when I'm diving into a new thing and in the end, that's what gets me. "I don't have time to garden!" I wail, or "When's the last time I hiked in the woods!" I lament. Or maybe, it's just that I'm destined to be a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling optimistic, I think perhaps I'm just still searching, and one day, I'll happen upon that ONE thing that I'm destined to do for the rest of my life. I worried for a long time that I hadn't found my ONE thing, like the potter who starts every morning with clay or the writer who begins every day with pen and paper. These days, I don't care quite so much that I haven't found my ONE thing. But I still get a little peeved at that part of myself that is severely lacking any sort of staying power.

And that, my friends, is why I haven't blogged much lately. It takes too much time. It's a solitary pursuit. I ran out of things to say. There are things I oh-so-badly need to hash through but they're too private for my blog. There are other things I want to spit through clenched teeth but I know I may regret that at a later date.

At the end of the day, I still love blogging. I'm a gotta share kinda grrl, and I love-love-love connecting with people and having great discussions and getting new ideas and having my own ideas challenged, analyzed, supported and tweaked. But at the end of the day, it's still just me sitting in front of a screen, while my family carries on without me, and the only friendships I've nurtured are with those whom I've never met in real life. It surprises me just how important those relationships are, even though they are untested in the ebb and flow of live interaction; and it is those relationships I grieve as I ponder the natural life cycle of my blog.

But I don't think I'm quite done yet. That seems rather rash and final. So we'll call it a break. A siesta. A vacation. Down time.

In the meantime, life goes on in our little section of cornfield country. I've retreated again with my women's group, gardened, managed Brady's soccer team and administrated for the soccer club. I've cooked, laundered, mowed, and scrubbed. There were play rehearsals and performances. Museum classes. Park days and band practices. Speaking gigs to give and speaking gigs to attend. Birthday parties, potlucks, performances, and festivals. And no, I still haven't painted my bathroom, but I did manage to purge an embarrassing amount of excess clothing from my closet.

And when life begins to move a bit too quickly, and painful things continue to poke holes in my thin-skinned exterior, and when I need some quiet and calm to help me muddle through a few things, I do always have this:

And it always brings me back to center.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Most Important, How's My Hair Look? -or- My Very Unflattering Photographic Portfolio

On Saturday I speak on unschooling at a new homeschooling conference. I've been surpisingly calm about it; usually by now I'm breathing into a paper bag and jumping out of my skin, causing Rob to mutter, "WHY do you say yes to these things?!?" while I spit, "YOU AREN'T HELPING!" back at him. But not this time. It helps, in a way, that I learned there are fewer registrations for the conference than expected, so in some ways it will be more like a conversation than a presentation. I'm disappointed for the organizers, of course, but a bit relieved that I don't have to practice projecting my voice, which, in my oh-so-organized way, is scheduled for somewhere between mopping the nervous sweat from my armpits and gasping, "ohmygoddess people are coming into the room".

But today I got a phone call that makes me nervous to the core of my being. The Register Star, the main newspaper of our nearby city of 200,000, called to arrange a photo shoot. I know!

I was interviewed for an article on eating organic food and now they'd like to take some photographs of my garden, or of me cooking with organic foods, or of me shopping for organic foods. "Ok," says me, followed by "Would you be interested in some stock footage from about 10 years ago? Say, when I had smoother skin, thinner thighs, and gray-free hair?" Question: can someone please tell me why don't I have a plastic surgeon on speed dial, hmmm?!

See, here's the thing. They also want to shoot a VIDEO. V-I-D-E-O. For their new online sister publication. They want to set up this whole thing in the aisles of my favorite produce market and interview me about organic foods and watch me shop. Which will likely be about as interesting as watching toenails grow, but hopefully a tad bit more informational. Unless you've got some weird foot fetish. And if you do, ew, and keep it to yourself. (Sorry, I digress. I digress a lot when I'm nervous.) It will definitely be entertaining for the stateline viewers, in that dude-does-her-left-eyelid-always-twitch-like-that sort of way. And for me? Well, let's just say I might have to sell my house and start anew in a faraway land. Yes, I will go to such lengths to avoid watching myself on video.

Am I overreacting just a bit? Probably. But seriously, people, the idea of watching video footage of myself, footage I will have no editing control over whatsoever, is d*mn close to my idea of hell - a twisted mix of anticipation and dread, hopeful maybe-this-time-I'll-look-fine and or-maybe-not. I'm the person who, after getting photographed by news people, actually begs to see it and then begs them to retake it if I'm not satisfied. And have you ever noticed how **CLOSE** they get when they photograph or tape you? Once I was interviewed after a war protest. Naturally, I hadn't washed my hair that day, and it was cold and windy, being March and all, and I remember fretting about how I'd look on the nightly news, forgetting all about the rush to war and why we'd gathered in the first place.

(Note to self: check for protruding nose hairs)

And really, it's not about me. It's about the organic food movement. So why am I tripping out? Because I'm a wicked critic when it comes to seeing myself in print, that's why. Maybe I should send a stunt double. Anyone? Anyone?

I don't know about you, but I'm a peaks-and-valleys kinda grrrl. I never know from day to day if my skin is going to be clear or blemished; if my hair is going to be straight or wavy; or if I'll manage to have on my game face or not. Even my handwriting is unpredictable; some days I have lovely handwriting, others days it's a scribbly, indescipherable mess. But more important than my handwriting is this: some days I'm photogenic, and some days I'm really, super, very much NOT.

So what, dear readers, if, on the day of "the shoot," I've got my double-chin going on?

Double? Yo, that's like a quadruple!

Or what if, in my nervous state, I can't get my face to stop doing this?

You remember what your mom used to say... "if you keep doing that, your face just might stay that way"... ohdearlord...

More critical questions: Should I wear my hair up?

Egads, no. Or how about a hat?

Nah, too HeeHaw.

Perhaps I could put on a "pensive" look, to mask my inner terror:

But that would require some measure of calm. And is it just me or does my pensive look scream deer caught in headlights...

I could always resort to drinking beforehand, to loosen up:

But then I might risk overindulging. Next thing you know, it wouldn't be Diane I had in a head-lock, but the camera man:

If only I could give them a stock photo. I could use this one, taken by the head-shot photographer at our community theatre when he was teaching ME how to shoot them:
But I guess that one would work better on the cover of my book. That one I'm writing. You know, the one I haven't worked on in, like, 9 months.

Alright, this calls for reinforcements. I'll need a hair colorist, facialist, and a liposuctionist, STAT. I'll need wardrobe options and my own dresser, a nail techinician onsite for touch-ups, and plenty of valium. Oh, and some of those carnival mirrors would be great - the ones that make you look ultra-skinny. Do zits show up on film?

And then I remembered, I know people who know people. And those people have people. And maybe those people's people would be my people and what was I saying?

For fashion advice, I choose Lily:

Hey Sistah, help a grrrl out, yo?

And Lily, in her infinite wisdom, says go with this:

And when Lily speaks, I listen. Any other advice, Lily, wee goddess of fashion?

"HELLO, shoes?!?"

As my dad used to say when playing euchre, "Go big or go home."

Whaddya think - does it say "Organic-Eatin' Mama?" or what?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Homeschoolers CAN Go to Prom

They just have to be invited by a school kid!

Does anyone notice an eerie similarity between this picture and another? Like, same boy, same hair, and same seating position in the van, but also - *gasp* - same shirt, same tie? Let me just begin with a little analogy - there are mothers who go to great lengths for their children's last-minute prom preparations, and then there is me.

Hot-sauce-covered tarantula-eating mom 1
Happy to have even pulled it off mom, 0

Anyhoo, Brady decided he wanted to invite to prom a sweet, lovely grrrl he'd met at our homeschooling conference. And because I have to drag things out of him using crowbars and CIA-sanctioned interrogation techniques (sorry, bad joke), he made this announcement by waking me at 10:45 pm three days before the prom, even though I'd been asking for two weeks if he wanted to go. And because it's good for us to add a little extra challenge at the last minute (but most decidedly not good for my blood pressure), he wanted to ask Amanda, who lives two hours away from us.

These days, I honestly don't know what is standard etiquette as far as the dating thing goes. Are the boys still expected to pay for everything or will the grrl be insulted that she's being treated with out-dated chivalry and she's her own woman, thank you very much? Was it horridly appalling that we asked Amanda's mother to drive her to meet us because we had a 5pm soccer tournament game that could not be missed and there was no way in tarnation we could make the 2-hour round-trip to get her? Is it cringingly shameful (is 'cringingly' a word?) that we met at a family-style restaurant (chosen by other prom-goers), took pictures in their "side room", and got them to the dance an hour late because Brady's scheduled shower at his great-uncle's house took 17 minutes instead of the allotted 3.8 nanoseconds? Oh, and he didn't wear a tux. Please send your thoughts on our poor etiquette to you'

Oh, and please pass the Mother-of-the-Year application.

What made all these faux pas admissible (at least that's what I keep telling myself when I feel the urge to send my 13th email of apology to Amanda's entire family tree), is they are *homeschoolers* and homeschoolers - at least the ones we're tight with - are blessedly open-minded and usually more than willing to break the mold of what "everyone else" expects. They don't miss the forest for the trees, and they embrace every moment for the beauty and connection and experience.

Ya, that sounds good. I'm going with that.

It also helped that a friend told me her husband's prom story... being a rebellious little punk, he wore pajama pants with an out-dated tuxedo jacket, roared up on his motorcycle, yelled something about prom being for losers, and jetted off for a night of who-knows-what in lieu of suffering through the prom. Brady almost wore soccer cleats and shinguards to his prom, but pajama pants? Pish posh.

Alright, enough of my excuses and justifications. (Note to self: shut up and schedule some therapy already).

We arrived at the restaurant to find the other prom-goers had already left for a cruise in their rented limosine, but that was ok - it gave us time to do the requisite photo session without an audience. Aren't they adorable? Here they are before putting on each other's flowers. I have 87 shots of it, but I'll just share this one.

And here is Amanda putting on Brady's boutineire.

I have 126 shots of this, but mostly because it took 862 tries and 3 of us to actually get it pinned on. Isn't she lovely? And look at that hair - *sigh* I think I might cry a little.

Ok, I'm better.

They couldn't stop smiling.

What's really amazing, too, is that Amanda's mom, Diane, is the queen of organizing events for homeschooled teens and for years she has emailed us about all the amazing things they're up to and inviting us to join when we can. We made it to very, very few events because they live so far away, and also because of this recent intrusion into our life called *school*, but the funny thing is she always added this at the end of her emails: "I think Brady and Amanda would get along really well."

Now, whether she meant it as in "attached at the hip 2.7 seconds after being introduced," as was the case, or just as a welcoming gesture to persuade us to venture in for an event or two, I don't know, but at our homeschooling conference in March, I finally took her up on her offer and introduced Brady to Amanda and her group of pals. It was midnight Friday night and Brady's friends had all gone to bed, but he was wide awake and itching for more social time. I found Diane, who was more than willing to invite us into their circles - Brady into Amanda's, and me into the adults' where I got to hang with several workshop leaders - and it was obvious that Brady and Amanda hit it off right away, even making plans to see each other quickly the next day before we all headed for home. (Note to Amanda: Can you make plans to see Brady every morning at, say, 5:50am? Because he shot out of bed right on schedule to meet up with you, but this whole waking up for school thing? Er, not so much.) (Note to Brady: I'm sorry if that embarrassed you.) It's been an Instant-Message frenzy ever since.

When we arrived at the dance, a gaggle of grrrls swarmed Brady, wanting to meet Amanda. My heart lurched for a moment, remembering how hideously mean grrls could be back in my school days (especially when a new grrl moved in on their turf), but my fears were quickly allayed when the grrls gushed over not Brady, but Amanda.

They did, however, have to pretend to be Brady's fan club:

By the end of the night, the lovely Rachel had claimed Amanda as her very own, telling Brady, "Bring her to Keith next year! We love her!"

Amanda's smile just kept getting bigger. Look how lovely she is! She is a delightful grrrl. And this boy? This boy owns my heart.I didn't eat a raw tarantula in hot sauce for Brady, but I did jump into overdrive to make this last-minute prom shindig happen. It may not have been a fairy tale in the traditional sense, but by the looks on their smiling faces, I'd say it turned out absolutely perfect.