Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kareena's Plight

You my think you know about having it tough, but you don’t. Not until you are plunged headfirst into a grimy box of cottage cheese containers. And you’re not really part of the ‘Garage Sale’ but indifference and apathy has left you upside-down in a box in the corner beside a rubber truck tire eaten away by rot and rusty broken chains that are not for sale.

But still, to some a treasure. That’s where Granddaughter found her. Discarded in an old box. Ragged and broken. But yet with that tattered body and partially decapitated head, she bestowed on GD a sweet look of courage. And so my 9-year-old GD and her Mom came away with doll in hand. GD named her Kareena.

It seems odd to say, but maybe for those of us who link emotional attachments to inanimate objects (usually worthless stuff), it is not so simple as it seems. Maybe within our DNA structure there is an affinity and empathy that reaches beyond living and breathing creatures. All I know is that I form binding relationships with inanimate objects and obviously GD has buried in her heart a similar propensity.

So Kareena came to Grandma’s house. Now I am neither a doll-surgeon or a mid-wife experienced in the art of easing the re-birth of old dolls. But GD expressed such sincere concern for Kareena, that I could only say, “Leave her with me and I’ll see what I can do.”

Gratefully it was Hub that securely reattached Kareena’s head with deft use of pliers and wire after I had constructed a body cast to attach it to. I wish I had before and after pictures to show you but I don’t. We know Kareena is no ordinary doll because she has porcelain (though not high-end porcelain) head, arms, and feet, attached to a cloth body.

But her uniform was dire. Nothing more than a bit of a sweater cuff cut at a fashionable angle. Can’t say that isn’t ‘making do’. And yeh, you know me. It was too unique, I couldn’t discard it. I felt I had to put on a wee hanger on display. How silly, but I guess I was prompted to do so by the same emotion that prompts so many parents to guild and bronze a first pair of baby shoes.

So then back to Kareena. After Hub reunited the plexus of Kareena’s body parts, I set about to sew her a wee dress. I combed her hair, Hub built a wooden display stand for her, and this is the result.

GD hasn’t come to claim her yet, but I’m quite certain she will be very pleased. We’ll probably weep together like sappy people do when presented with an unexpected bouquet of wild flowers.


While I was working on the resurrection of Kareena, Eldest Daughter (ED) called. In my discussion with her about the doll project, she admitted to me that she has carried around with her for many years a tiny plastic giraffe with a missing leg. She really didn’t know why. She only knew that if it hadn’t been broken she would have discarded it long ago. Her only explanation was she felt ‘so sorry’ for it.

And then we both ended up postulating that if toy companies were to develop a line of less sophisticated toys like Kareena (prior to a fix) and the wee giraffe, perhaps children would adopt them. And ultimately, through that kind of adoption, come to know and understand empathy in real-life relationships.

Children love to compete with each other. No one ever needs to explain to a child the theory of competitiveness when it comes to fast, slick, and efficient video play. They buy into that from the get-go. So how unique would it be if competitiveness with their peers were in the vein of giving more effort, more concern, than other kids with the same toy?

I can only imagine how sweet it would be to have toys, or perhaps I should say ‘gaming’, that encourages skills in helping those victimized and defeated by circumstance.

Truthfully, do we have any games, where players are encouraged to play in a spirit of kindness, thoughtfulness, and compassion? Don’t think so.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Gardening Chronicle

I thought about gardening today and the theory I have heard that the sun, the dirt, and growing things, are supposed to be a healthy non-pharmaceutical alternative for hormone replacement for post-menopausal women. So for those who prefer a natural fix, isn’t that a good conviction to contemplate?

So I go to the garden and contemplate that thought as I crawl about on hands and knees yanking out weeds and putting them in a pail. Doing the healthy thing.

But out here in my garden, my conviction that a magical interchange of feeble weariness vs. youthful estrogen is happening, begins to weaken as the dirt presses into my knees and grinds its way into my shoes and under my fingernails. As flies nip at my neck and the sun beats down on my head. As rivers of toily-sweat drip salt-water into my eyes. And as cramp-spasms form painful knots in my ankles, back, and knees.

Now despite the warnings of possible side-effects, my friend told me she takes estrogen-replacement medication (in pill form) to preserve a quality of life that is very necessary. You know, stuff like energy, ambition, and bones insisting that they have the strength to run, to jump, to dance, and chronically insisting that is what they want and plan to do.

As for me, I hate taking pills. I hate an artificial fix. So I remain in my garden: absorbing hormone-replacement in a natural way.

But eventually I am finished and when I dump my pail of weeds and look up, there is Hub taking his ease in a lawn-chair on the deck.

“What’s with you?” I ask, biting my lip and stifling my annoyance. “Are you unaware how much garden work needs doing?”

“Not at all,” Hub replies. “I told you, when we were planting them, that was too many potatoes. So while you were weeding the rest of the garden, I hoed my two rows, and I am done! YOUR six rows still need hilling.”

Oh, really? Well, I’ll do them alright. How opportune for me to have so many more hours to sap up a grand excess of hormone-replacement. Then we’ll see…

He might be grinning now, but man, is he going to be sorry, when I’m finished – and my excess estrogen-replacement fervor of potency and carnality kicks in.

He’ll be running fast as he can – to the garden – to hill the remaining potatoes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Random Patches and Commitments

Yesterday Hub handed me the quilt that we always use for a bit of extra coziness when sitting in the big chair. The quilt is very old. Well past its prime. I think I bought that quilt 10 years ago, maybe more.

It’s not exactly pretty and after endless washings, the batting is lumpy. In fact, there is only one positive thing to say and that is how soft threadbare cotton becomes as it reverts to filmy mesh. The quilt should really be discarded, but still when Hub sits there under that quilt and inspects it and announces there are three new rips, what do I do?

I do what I did yesterday. Haul out the sewing machine and patch it yet again. But why do I do it when I could just as easily, re-cover it, or even throw the damn thing out? Because for some stupid reason every time this happens, I ask for Hub’s opinion. And always he says the same thing.

“It would be downright foolish to re-cover that old thing. Don’t do that. It has a few new rips but a couple of patches can readily fix that.” This from the practical, no-nonsense man who immediately discards every other thing in this house with minor failings, and actively encourages me, the hoarder, to do the same.

So I concede and mend it yet again even though it has now reached the point where there are patches overlapping patches, all of which have colors that bare no relationship to each other or the original quilt.

I really don’t know what is up with Hub and that old tattered quilt. I guess the practical man has inadvertently let the comfort of it get too close to a small magnetic spot somewhere in his chest. A place where there is a tiny wee ‘soft spot’ of fixed commitment to a person or thing (no matter how decrepit), that he doesn’t even know he has.

Now, I want you to hold that thought while I tell you something as unrelated to this story as the random patches on the old quilt.

I’ve had a sore mouth for a couple of months. The dentist told me on my last visit that I should keep my bottom teeth at all costs despite a rapid decline in the sturdiness they once had. So that’s what I’m doing.

But now, one of my two front teeth has been protesting for months that it is time to go. And when that one goes, they will all need to go, because the dentist told me the rest are too weak to support a partial plate. And he promised me that a full plate was not a good option. So now it appears that I am cornered and the only option I have left is to get that fool-tooth yanked out and work as best I can with one front tooth instead of two. It’s not a pleasant thought but what else can I do?

I will give it some thought because I am really ‘proud’ of how ‘non-vain’ I am, but having said that, even I can’t face life with a gap in my front teeth. I don’t understand the thought-processing of those who MUST HAVE a breast implant, silicone lips, hair dye, or a nose job to impress, but this scenario falls way outside of those parallels. This is quite different.

Two front teeth are fundamental. One can’t go around, no matter what, with a tooth-gap in the front of their mouth. Such a flaw erases all social graces with S’s that hiss, spittal that sprays, and contributes way-too-exactly to the look of a Halloween hag.

So let’s not call that vanity. That is something else for which I don’t think there is a proper name. Is there an appropriate word for something dictated by invariable laws of balance, expectation, precision, and the integrity of a yawn, a smile, a kiss, an ‘s’, and an ‘o’? Still, surely you understand that even without a proper descriptive word for such a circumstance, I can no more leave a gap in my teeth than I can leave a hole in the old quilt.

I remain quietly frustrated. Torn between my weak regard for dentists, the pain in my mouth, and the scarce options I have for fixing the problem. It’s pretty much my problem, my decision what to do about it, so I quietly endure my discomfort without complaint. Still Hub knows. He has noticed that lately I am refusing to eat salads or raw veggies. Finally yesterday, in frustration, as I plucked the lettuce and tomato from a sandwich, he snapped at me, that if my teeth are sore, maybe I should go see a dentist.

Now I have to tell you, with impending age, I find myself almost daily perched between opposing forces: Enthusiasm vs. fatigue, optimism vs. pessimism, and determination vs. giving in or giving up. And now I have Hub nastily snapping at me because I am putting off getting my teeth fixed.

It’s all too much. Suddenly frustration and self-pity overwhelm me and I feel my foothold giving way. My spirits plunging downward into a depressive abbess. Into that chasm that I so daily confront and in the confronting of it use every microbe of my ever-weakening determination to avoid.

There’s no denying it. Hub’s voice is angry and impatient and that, combined with my already frustrated concerns about my teeth, blasts me into a defeatist nosedive. But then suddenly I am snatched from my hurtling descent by a silly grin and a bland remark.

“Never mind Roberta. You do what you need to do when you are ready. It matters not to me cause I plan to keep you till you’re ninety.”

(That was my foregone conclusion, but it was exceptionally nice to hear verbalization of the thought). And I can’t help thinking that luckily that old quilt and I are both sealed to that tiny commitment spot in his chest that makes his usual acts of rash discard equally impossible.

My mood is lightened. I even snicker. Cause in all this generosity he has missed a major point. He obviously isn’t projecting himself into the future reality of keeping an old hag with an ugly gap in her teeth, who not only nags, but hisses and spits as well. But maybe, it won’t matter that much. Perhaps I can get my lips plumped up with enough silicone to shield the black hole in my face.

If not, I can stay in the big chair and cover my face with the old quilt.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Fables from the Book of Child-Interpretations 2.


Most of us shake our heads in dismay at the thought of pre-arranged marriages. We reject the thought of a cold convention planned and executed through negotiated dowries, while rejecting as utterly frivolous the delightful components of amorous romance.

How unfair the chilly mandate that deadens the electrocuting jolt of the connection of two individuals sparked by nothing more than a look, or a deliberate brush of a hand. Pre-arranged marriages, like lightning rods, ‘ground’ dynamic events that should be the birthright of all spiritual and fervent species.

But this rant is not about pre-arranged marriages although such discussion certainly sets the context. This rant is about pre-arranged religion.

Now no one could be more fanatical about religion than my mother was. Fanatical to the extent that as a child and even as a teen, I could not cut my hair, shave my armpits, wear slacks, earrings, make-up, or sleeveless blouses. And I was strongly discouraged from attending ball games or community sports events on the Sabbath.

At the time I thought it was all so bloody unfair and utterly ridiculous. But, now in retrospect I see a very important part of the bigger picture that brings fairness and justice into this equation that I could not see when in the midst of it. Despite all of these house rules and regulations, I cannot claim that I was forced into a pre-arranged religion.

Amidst all those standards I have listed (that I sometimes disobeyed, but in doing so endured such painful guilt), I was still quite inexplicably encouraged to read conflicting publications from other churches, and in our bookshelf, there were many. And in addition to that, I was never prevented from attending other churches with opposing views. Of course I attended church often enough there was little risk of that ever happening. But still, my mother poured over the doctrine and beliefs of other denominations and never discouraged me from doing the same.

Her belief was in a loving and merciful god. Perhaps that is why she sneered at the thought of signing any church-covenant or formal agreement stating her responsibility, or my obligation, to forever be a member of any particular doctrine. And, as peculiar as it is, although she shunned me when I wore lipstick, or dressed immodestly, at no time did she instill the slightest fear in my mind of shunning or divorcing herself from me because of loss of faith.

She saw no reason to sign a contract and she saw no reason to baptize me at birth prior to me having reached an age of understanding. And even later, when I eventually reached the age of understanding, it was completely left up to my own discretion.

So I revel now in the conflicts that I see in her forceful demands that I should dress modestly, but no such force applied to shutting my mind down to spiritual questioning. It seems to me in retrospect that she seemed to think that if she fed me overly large portions of spiritual fodder until my spiritual appetite reached a point of nauseous obesity, the desire for more would be completely eradicated.

And in addition to that, I believe she saw no risk. No risk because she absolutely believed, as her Bible said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22: 6)

Isn’t that a lovely, fair, generous and comforting thought for a concerned parent? A Biblical promise that it is okay to allow youths to pursue their own paths and exercise their own independence even to the point of wandering way off course in the interim between youth and old age. With dutiful childhood teaching, it’s not a crisis. In fact, it’s of little matter, because in the end all will be well.

And so now, returning to my original thoughts, as disturbing as it is to contemplate the coldness of pre-arranged marriages, I think pre-arranged religion is equally discomfiting. When spiritual beliefs are dictated or covenanted before the age of understanding, religion becomes a stiff convention that ignores and grounds the thrilling electrifying jolt that transports souls to a higher realm, warms the soul with true sincerity, and allows the dignity of freedom of choice.

I am eternally grateful to my mother for having irrational zeal and perfect wisdom.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fables from the Book of Child-Interpretations


Even kids have opinions. Even kids set values. And believe me, as opinionated as I am now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You should have seen how opinionated I was when I was a kid.

It should have never happened. It was so ‘not right’. God said so. He said so in the story of Christ using a whip to chase the moneychangers from the temple. And he said so through another story. The story of Christ’s examination of the image on a penny and what he then spoke to those around him. “Render…unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. (Luke 20:25)
(all of this a pre-cursor to the phrase – “separation of Church and State”)

So although I was a little eight-year-old, I took this stuff very seriously. And I knew for a certainty that it was wrong and I was righteously indignant at those who exchanged money in the temple-church in the form of harvest suppers, Bingo, card games, silent auctions, and flea markets. Some used the feeble excuse that they only engaged in this sort of thing in the ‘basement’ of the church, but that wasn’t a good enough excuse for me.

I knew the Bible perspective (as stated above). So why was this happening with adults? Had no one told them the rules? That there should be zip, nanna, NO moneychangers in the temple. In what other instance did the loving Christ get so thoroughly upset? So completely and uncharacteristically angry and annoyed? So quick to show disapproval? So quick to punish?

My annoyance about it burned in my child-heart and brain like a fire. Like a unique communication given to me in the form of a daunting challenge from God, himself. You know full well what any Minister will say if you ask them why they became a Minister. They all tell the same story. The calling came to them through a whisper in their ear. And when pressed further they will also say, “It was clear and well articulated.”

All of that quite amazing to me, but now I understood it. It was kind of nice to know that ‘whispers in the ear’ were not specialized things reserved only for Ministers. I know that now cause I definitely heard a ‘whisper in my ear’ as direct as God’s clear-speak to Noah to ‘build an ark’. And the voice in my ear told me that it was up to me to fashion a sturdy whip to snap about the ears and rears of blatantly irresponsible adults so impervious to holy writ. The lot of them, mature adults no less, buying and selling in the church basement.

Of course, some of them were to be pitied. I knew nothing of addiction but still I knew that some were there to play cards or Bingo, not because they wanted to be, or chose to be, but because of entanglement of intemperance in soul-strings and heart-strings. That I could understand. Cause I was a good honest kid, wanting to be the best I could be, but I could not stay my hand when there were Jap oranges, chocolates, and nuts stashed under the cupboard at Christmas, or tins of thick-creamy evaporated milk in reserve in the attic.

Now I want you to hold those thoughts, while here I digress for just a moment to tell you something quite personal about my own contemplation of the temple tirade. I never could quite come to terms with the rashness of Christ’s reaction to buyers and sellers in the temple. Until I realized that I (as the very good person I wanted to be) exact far more pain from observing disciplinary justice than being a participant.

I’m not sure you will understand this but I would sooner be cruel myself, I would sooner man the whip, be the cruel surrogate, as it were, then watch others be cruel, because at least when I am in that role, I have control over the severity of the cruelty.

This no doubt, sounds to you, like a dangling principle, but nevertheless, that is my aside and now I continue with my story.

I knew how to braid, and so from binder-twine I found in the granary, I wove a lovely rope whip like Zorro’s. The burden on my mind, however, was far too heavy. The whispering in my ear ever more harsh.

It was truly frightening to face a prospect similar to that of David, the young shepherd boy, alone against a warrior giant with nothing but a slingshot. Here I was, a mere child, alone against the moneychangers in the temple with nothing but my scurrilous whip. David’s story gave encouragement, his success was comforting, but not encouraging or comforting enough so I told my Mother what I must do.

Mother agreed in part. Her belief was the same as mine (i.e. no moneychangers in the temple), but she said that although I was being given a God-guided conscience in the matter, it was not a “call” to whip the moneychangers. I actually wept with relief.

My father, spying my braided whip, soon also heard the story. He agreed with my mother but said it was a lovely whip and so he attached it to a stick and showed me how to use it for snapping the heads off of dandelions and other noxious weeds. I’m not sure if I should admit how personally satisfying it was to find I could do such treacherous decapitations so swiftly and so expertly.

Ultimately, it was good to know that it would be ‘okay’ for me to have fried chicken and lemon pie in the church basement at the annual Harvest supper without my whip. And that it would be okay to sit at one of the long tables consuming such a fine repast while ignoring the utterly contemptible people sitting around me.

Not that it would ever happen. You would never catch my mother and father exchanging money in the temple! But that’s okay. I think there’s still a few cans of evaporated milk in the attic yet to be opened.