Confession

There are several people close to me who I believe have inattentive-type ADD and I know I should feel sorry for them but frankly I am sick and tired of dealing with it. One of them is my mother-in-law, a sweet pink-cheeked white-haired 70-something who is so scatter-brained you wouldn’t believe.

We had plans this afternoon, involving me, my daughter, my MIL, my BIL and his two daughters. BIL was going to pick us all up in his van at 4. We were going to go to the park and get in line for tickets to an outdoor show that will be sold out if we don’t get there early. We were going to bring picnic dinners and frisbees and have fun hanging out while we waited. I spent the earlier part of the day rushing around trying to get all the things done that I need to get done before we go, whipping together a picnic dinner (thank you honey for hard boiling some eggs this morning), making sure violins were practiced and showers were taken, figuring out father’s day stuff for my father and my honey, yadda yadda yadda. Only to have MIL come over a little after four: “Oh, I changed the plan,” she said airily. “I’m going to go ahead now and get the tix. BIL will pick you up in about an hour. That way the girls won’t have to wait so long.”

Um, okay.

“I checked the website,” she continued. “It turns out the tickets go on sale later than I thought.”

“Oh really,” I said. “Not at 5:00, like I told you?”

“Oh yes, they go on sale at 5:00. I know that’s what you said but I had it in my mind that they went on sale at 4:30 and even though I know you said 5:00 I didn’t really hear it.” (This is a nearly word-for-word quote.)

<sigh> It actually does make it easier to go at five instead of four, but I wish it had occurred to her to tell me in advance. This is exactly the kind of thing she sucks at: planning, time management, considering the possible consequences of a decision.

“Okay,” I said. “I guess I’ll go put our picnic dinner into the fridge for now.”

“Good idea,” she said. “Could you put mine in your fridge too?”

Lovely

I think that I ain’t never seen
A poem ugly as a spleen.

A poem that could make you shiver,
Like 3.5 . . . pounds of liver.

A poem to make you lose your lunch,
Tie your intestines in a bunch.

A poem all gray, wet, and swollen,
Like a stomach or a colon.

Something like your kidney, lung,
Pancreas, bladder, even tongue.

Why you turning green, good buddy?
It’s just human body study.

—Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith

Listening to Time for Three

The only thing I love more than classical music is classically-trained crossover musicians. These guys, Time for Three, are unbelievably amazing. They are two violins and a double bass and omigod do they have the classical chops — and they play a mix of everything under the sun. We Just Burned This For You is a live recording that, among other things, includes: a Beatles song; country & bluegrass classics; gypsy music; and a sizzling hot, jazzed up arrangement of the Bach Double.

Awesome!

Sequelae

Well now I’m feeling a little guilty about having laughed at Jay’s injury. It turned out he broke his femur. He had emergency surgery late Saturday night and came home from the hospital the following Tuesday (yesterday). Whoops.

It was kind of interesting how events developed. The break itself (femoral neck, just under the ball and socket joint of the hip) is a common injury in old people but very uncommon in children. When old people break their femoral necks they just pop in a couple of screws and soon they are right as rain. However, for kids who are still growing, this type of injury can have serious long term consequences. If the blood flow into that ball and socket joint is compromised there is a very great chance of hip problems like arthritis, etc., and possibly a hip replacement within the next few years. But because this injury is so uncommon in kids, none of the doctors thought of this until finally his case worked its way up to the attending pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Even the resident orthopedist was considering whether or not to send us home and have him come back on Monday for the surgery. And then suddenly the anesthesiologist was asking us when did he last eat and rushing him into the OR.

Anyway, here are the main points of our hospital experience:

  • At no time did Jay ever seem confused, scared, or even in much pain. The entire time he was joking around and being very much his usual inimitable self.
  • Looking around at the other kids on the floor, and especially the two other teenage boys he was sharing the hospital room with — broken spine to his left, colostomy bag to his right — my overwhelming feeling was gratitude. Compared to what some kids have to deal with, what we had was NOTHING.
  • Jay and I had some fantastic mother-son time during this little vacation. Partly because of the previously-mentioned oedipus complex and partly because of having two other kids at home, plus the fact that this is a spectacularly busy time of year for hubby (final exams, papers to grade), it was mostly just me who was at the hospital with him. We had long conversations about everything under the sun, including GIRLS, and by the end of the weekend both of us felt like our relationship was on a new level. Not that it wasn’t strong before, but sometimes it seems like weeks go by with nothing more than the most superficial howwasschool finecanihaveasnack chit-chat. And that’s a pretty damn awesome outcome if you ask me.

Thanks, dude

So, the angst-y adolescent I mentioned earlier? Yes he is annoying as hell a lot of the time, but he has his good points too.

Yesterday the eighth grade went on a field trip to the public pool. Jay, goofing around with his friends, hurt his hip. Not so badly that he couldn’t bear weight on it, but bad enough that he had to be driven back to school by one of the teachers. In the evening we decided to take him to urgent care for an x-ray. This was a bit complicated because at the same time we were supposed to be going to our elementary school ice cream social. Now I am not exactly a social butterfly — curmudgeon is more like it — and let’s just say this event was not high on my list of things to look forward to, nor Hubby’s either, for that matter. Both of us wanted SO BAD to be the one to take Jay to the ER. Well, what can I say? He picked me. “It’s my oedipus complex,” he explained to his dad, absolutely deadpan.

I wish I could reproduce his entire hilarious narrative of the events that led up to his fall. Here’s his facebook update, which gives some insight:

Now I have to MANUALLY REPOSITION MY LEFT LEG every time I want to move it. Pros: The injury stemmed from me being a genius climber and introducing a crowd of twenty people to a whole new activity that entertained them for a while; also, I got lots of attention from some very nice and concerned people! Cons: I will most likely not be able to make it to the dance. I now walk at the speed of a tortoise.

And later he explained:

Well, you see, being the shining example of common sense that I am, I was doing a trick through the monkey bars and I fell out of the other side and onto the ground, landing on my left hip. I don’t think it’s broken, but it might be sprained. It doesn’t hurt TOO much—only when I move it in certain ways/put weight on it. This means that, for the moment, I have to walk around like a 70-year-old cowboy.

Best of all, though (ok, I know this is a proud mama anecdote, sorry) was him hobbling into the kitchen at the speed of a tortoise/like a 70-year-old cowboy and saying to me in his best Cary Elwes accent: “Drop. Your. Sword.”

Argh!

We have an angst-y adolescent in the family, our 14yo son who is finishing the eighth grade. He is basically a good kid and I am fairly confident that he’ll be all right when he comes out on the other side of this, but lordy, lordy! These days, he is No Fun At All.

I am so tired of the eye rolling and the great… big… heavy… sighs.

I am so tired of his constant complaints about his younger sibs, who really don’t deserve it.

I am so tired of him acting like being with the family is such a goddam burden.

I am so tired of his swagger.

I am so tired of him using the fact that he is fourteen to justify his obnoxious behavior. I blame the fifth grade health class for that one, by the way, for telling the kids to look forward to mood swings and fights with parents — seriously, was that really necessary?

Argh.

Half of a Yellow Sun

As I mentioned yesterday, I turned to Patrick O’Brian as respite from a couple of heavy war novels I’d been reading. One was Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I picked this up from the library at random; I think it was lying on top of a cart waiting to be shelved. I had never heard of it, but I was attracted by the interesting title and the exotic name of the author. And I was further intrigued after reading her bio, which mentions numerous publications and prizes.

Half of a Yellow Sun is about the Biafran War, 1967–1970. I am so ashamed to say that not only had I never heard of this book or its author, but I had never even heard of the war. I was born in 1966; although I wasn’t old enough to be aware of it when it was happening, surely I should have heard about it some time during the last 43 years.

Oh, what a distressing story it is.

Basically, Biafra was a secessionist nation that only existed for three years, the result of a brutal civil war between different ethnic groups in Nigeria. Only a handful of countries recognized Biafra as a nation, and what little aid was sent by humanitarian groups rarely reached those who needed it. A million people died of disease and starvation. When I googled for images of Biafra, I don’t know what I was expecting: landscapes, or maps, maybe. Instead I got National Geographic-style photos of starving children with swollen bellies, stick-figure limbs, and flies in their eyes.

Grim topic for a novel, eh? But well worth reading, if you have the stomach for it. As a novel it works very well. The writing is excellent; the story is tight and well structured. There are several protagonists that share the spotlight and give you a nice variety of perspectives in terms of age, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. Against the backdrop of the war, people grow, relationships develop and change, and life goes on. But always there is the war and the famine, and no easy answers. Some plot threads are deliberately left open. And if you happen to be white and privileged you will feel guilty, reading this. Personally, I think that’s a good thing.

Rereading Patrick O’Brian

After a spate of heavy reading (two war novels in a row, why I did that I don’t know) I went back to my tried and true, my darling precious beloved Patrick O’Brian. I hardly have words to describe how much I love those Aubrey-Maturin novels, how immersed I am in that world. I mean it. I am immersed. Permanently. It doesn’t matter what else is going on around me: I could be in a meeting with clients, I could be at the elementary school ice cream social or my kids’ violin recital, I could be out on a date with my honey, it doesn’t matter. I am always looking at the world through Patrick O’Brian-colored glasses. And the world feels like a better place because of it.

My favorite section of the series is books five through nine, and that’s where I dove in this time. I read Desolation Island (that’s number five) a few days ago and now I’m deeply immersed in The Fortune of War, number six. This is the one where they come home from the Dutch East Indies in La Flèche, which catches fire and blows up. They float around in lifeboats for a quite a while and nearly perish until at last they are picked up by HMS Java, which is subsequently taken in a very bloody action by the USS Constitution. This is the War of 1812, by the way, and that battle actually happened. So Aubrey and Maturin eventually end up in Boston as prisoners of war. Captain Aubrey is recovering in the hospital with the mental ward — providing material for some of the funniest scenes in the entire canon — while the good doctor is busy reuniting with Diana Villiers and fighting off French agents provocateurs. In just a few more pages they will nick Mr. Johnson’s diamonds and secret papers and escape in the Shannon. The book will end with a bang as Shannon takes the Chesapeake in another bloody and historically true battle. Huzzah!

I would just like to state for the record that my interest in Age of Sail, Regency England and the Napoleonic Wars came about as a result of reading Patrick O’Brian, not the other way around. I love these books despite the history and jargon, not because of it. I wouldn’t touch a Horatio Hornblower book with a ten foot pole. What kills me the most about these books is not the battles but rather the humor, the friendship, the manners and morals, the music, and most of all the tenderness. Yes, the tenderness! There is something incredibly tender and poignant about these books. O’Brian often makes fun of his characters, e.g. Jack being so clueless on shore and Stephen never learning the difference between larboard and starboard, but he does it so gently and lovingly that it makes your heart swell even while you’re laughing. There are also scenes of cruelty and despair, but somehow it is acceptable too, because underlying it is this love of humanity that just tears you apart.

Hello, world!

Normally I am not the type to just go with default settings. No, I must customize every piece of my environment, whether it is online or in real life. However, I do think the WordPress default post is such a nice way to start off a brand-new baby blog! I always picture a little bird emerging from its egg, blinking in the bright sun, going “so this is what it’s all about!” Which is stupid because actually the phrase “hello world” has a totally different significance.