Sunday, June 29, 2008

You said breasts.

Published June 29, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I remember one day in a high school English class my teacher asked if there was anyone in the room who felt they had endured more than their fair share of trials in life. I raised my hand high and without a flinch. Thousands of dollars of therapy and a full gratitude journal later, I've seen the error of my 16 year old thinking and have learned to be grateful for everything life has thrown my way.

Well, there is one glaring exception.

This is one of those columns I write as quickly as I can because I’m on a roll and don’t want to think of another topic. I promise you that once I hit send and this sucker is on its way through cyberspace to my editor’s desk, I’m going to sit at my computer for hours wondering if I really sent it. (That happened with something I wrote back in February...a column about a yearly checkup at the gynecologist’s office in which I was too skittish to write the word gynecologist.)

I’ll put any attempts at skittishness aside with one word: breasts. Yes, I’m giggling like an 11 year old boy who just came across that word in the dictionary. I just typed the word breasts and someone’s going to print it in the newspaper for thousands of people to read just because I typed it. I’m a 31 year old woman who’s nursed 5 children without a second thought and somehow, I get all silly writing a column about breasts. Breasts, breasts, breasts! (An elderly gentleman in Dixie Downs just collapsed in his kitchen. Someone go help him, will ya?)

Breasts are funny things. No matter how much I try to believe I don’t care about the size of them, well, I can’t help but care about the size of them. No, I have not fallen prey to the fashion industry "ideal" of the anorexic ectomorph with the mystifyingly large and firm double D’s nature certainly never gave her. I just want my clothes to fit.

You see, there’s this thing that happens to a woman when she gains a little (or a lot) of weight. Her bra "cup size" goes up. Bras are sized by number and letter. The letter represents the cup size or relative size of the actual breast. (Am I the only one who thinks the cups in bras look more like bowls and should be titled such?)

So what’s my problem? I have gained a considerable amount of weight since that day in English class. My breasts? They haven’t budged. I am, I suppose, the complete opposite of the strangely disproportionate fashion model. I’ve got a rack to fit their tiny bodies, and they’re all walking around with the bosom every clothing manufacturer in the world assumes I have.

If it seems a silly thing to consider a trial in life, just try looking down the front of your wedding dress and realizing you could fit a small starter home in the space you’re not filling out...and that’s WITH a padded push-up bra. It’s a problem I’ve known well for far too many years now. If I’m shopping for plus sized tops (which I always am), I can count on a far too roomy chest and the discomfort that goes with it.

I’ve had many of my full figured friends tell me that being on the other side of things is no picnic either. They’re quick to tell me the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the bra. To hear them tell it, having a large chest makes fitting into most tops very difficult and keeping things modest nearly impossible. Add to that underwire that pinches, shoulder straps that dig, and back pain that can be debilitating, and I begin to wonder if I didn’t get the better deal after all.

Not wanting to continue cursing the gods for my brand of mammary misfortune, I’m putting these experiences in my gratitude journal tonight in the hopes that I can finally check this bra bitterness off my list. I may also include a little bit of info I gleaned from the National Geographic. Did you know many women in African countries have no bras at all let alone shirts that don’t fit them? I’m trying to decide if I feel bad for them or not.

I kinda think they’re on to something...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blaming aliens

Published June 22, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I realized today that I live my life from within the pages of an old fashioned science fiction novel. In this novel, all of my childhood friends and acquaintances have been off on an intergalactic mission, traveling at the speed of light while I have stayed back on earth in order to hold the place together. As in any good, old-fashioned science fiction novel (due to a misunderstanding of Einstein’s theory of relativity), my astronaut friends have not aged a bit though more than a decade has passed.

This realization came to the forefront as I approached the vessel (house) of my childhood friend, Elizabeth. As I climbed the platform (steps) to her receiving bay (front door), I smiled to myself, eager to greet my small, tomboyish friend in her cute, blond pageboy haircut and cheery sweater, circa 1987. When I was greeted instead by a beautiful 30 year old woman with long hair, a smiling husband, and three giggly children, I drew the obvious conclusion any earthbound character would have drawn. Aliens got her.

I would have run away in terror had I not smelled the inviting scent of barbecued ribs from the kitchen. Aliens may have stolen my friend and replaced her with some strange, grown-up version of Elizabeth, but they certainly knew their way around a grill.

The age/time paradox is like a well rehearsed rule in my mind. I am allowed to age. My children (to a lesser extent) are allowed to age. Everyone else, especially those who live far from me, are not allowed to age and therefore must escape the aging process by rocketing off to unknown destinations until such time that we can arrange a meeting. When reality hits, and I find that no one I know has been living by the rules, it’s perturbing to say the least.

Case in point: Ryan. He was 2 when I met him, a precocious boy who walked on his toes and knew his stars from his circles and his reds from his blues. Upon reconnecting with his family, I found him to be 6 feet 3 inches tall, sporting massive shoulders and a beard. I turned to his mother and said, “I don’t know if you’ve realized this, but Ryan has facial hair. I don’t know how YOU feel about it, but I am NOT okay with it.”

Ryan responded to my scolding not by pointing at my shirt and shouting a high-pitched, “BLUE!” as I would have expected but with a resonant and amused, “But my facial hair makes me look cool.” I craned my neck as far back as I could, looked deeply into his eyes and said, “That’s why I’m not okay with it.”

I think part of my problem with all of this is my lifelong desire to never be that annoying person saying, “The last time I saw you, you were only this tall!” or “You were in diapers!” or “You were voting Republican!” Rather than think of something more creative to say (there isn’t anything…believe me), I’ve been living my life in complete denial. When the moment comes and I’m faced with a much older version of someone in a past life, I’m lost.

The good news, I think, is that this phenomenon is not confined to mild mannered newspaper columnists who have a taste for science fiction. Elizabeth seemed just as oblivious to the passage of time as we reminisced about my younger brother, whom she thought she sent on a mission to the Vega system the moment we moved away from Oklahoma. I broke the news that he is now 28 years old with a wife and two children. I quickly reassured her that I suspect his being replaced by aliens, and she relaxed.

I mean, it’s sad to lose someone to extraterrestrial kidnapping, but the barbecue’s good eating.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The sound of silence

Published June 15, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

As I sit and write this column, I find myself startled from time to time by the silence of my house. Twisting in my computer chair, I look suspiciously toward the stairs and think, What are they up to? It’s way too quiet up there. Reality sets in with a jolt as I remember they’re not up there at all. All five kids are in a minivan with their grandparents, heading for a three week vacation in New Mexico.

I don’t know what to do with myself. The longest I’ve ever been away from all of them was 6 days, and I survived that by the skin of my teeth, the seat of my pants, and the edge of my seat.
Fortunately for me, I’m organized. I already have a list of projects lined up to keep me busy. So far I’ve been able to check off crying, sniffling, bawling, blubbering, and wailing. I’ve been tear free for about five minutes now, so I’m almost ready to move on to shaking uncontrollably, followed by hours and hours of abject misery. It’s going to be a busy day.

I’m probably being overly dramatic, but they’ve only been gone an hour at this writing. I really do have a plan. There will be a whole lot of unpacking, organizing, wallpapering, and painting going on in my house over the next few weeks. It’s hard to know if I’m taking advantage of an opportunity or just doing this to keep my mind off the kids’ absence. Chicken…egg…omelet…who knows?

Every now and then, I look up from my computer and shout, “Work it out!” just to have something to say to the silence. I’ve also started focusing more on the cats, scolding them with admonitions like, “Euclid, you know you’re not supposed to climb on the counters,” and “Isis, that wasn’t very nice, was it? Apologize to your brother,” and “Buster, use your words. I can’t understand you when you whine like that.”

I’m all geared up for the neighbors to think I’m crazy when I start spending hours at their house every day, carousing with their six children. The good news is they’re family, so they’ll probably put up with me. The bad news is they’re family, so the rest of the family will most likely learn how their newest member is a little on the unstable side.

Mealtimes are going to be a bit of a problem. I’ve spent the last few years cooking for a crowd. Unless it’s a romantic, candlelit dinner, I don’t know how to cook for two. Either Richard and I are going to have to eat nothing but steak, salmon, and Cornish game hens, or we’re going to have to eat giant tubs full of spaghetti, tuna casserole, and homemade Chinese food for a week at a time. At least the candlelight will make every bite of week-old chili seem romantic and special.

I’m debating whether or not to start some kind of a daily countdown until the kids are home. I might mark the days off on the calendar or make hash marks on the bulletin board. I could also expand my list of projects so there is one for every day they’re gone. Those are good ideas, but I think I’m leaning toward something a little more creative.

I’m going to draw one of those giant thermometers and just cry over it every day until the water mark reaches the top.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The great unpacking

Published June 8, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Merry Christmas!

What? Only June, you say? Well, it may be June to you, but it’s Christmas in my house. For someone who hates moving as much as I do, I have to say unpacking a house is like experiencing the joy of Christmas morning over and over and over again.

The boxes may not be brightly wrapped, but they’re securely fastened and filled with exciting and wonderful items. Every day is punctuated with shouts of, “Mom! I’ve found the…” followed by amazing and dazzling things like, uh, soap…and pans…and underwear.

Okay, so it’s not quite Christmas, at least not any Christmas I want to have, but it’s the same concept anyway. After only a few days in a box-filled house, anyone can find themselves elated over objects like toilet paper and Sunday shoes. (After our first trip to church in flip flops and sneakers, the Sunday shoe box was a very welcome discovery.)

Actually, the Christmas morning thing occurs when you’re packing too. It’s that one bright spot in all the packing chaos…those moments when you move the couch, discover untold riches, raise your treasure aloft and shout, “I’ve been looking EVERYWHERE for this!” (Though, can one really say “everywhere” when one just found it in one of the many places she never looked?)

In my move I found my daughter’s long lost glasses, a few important legal documents, a few hundred forks, spoons, knives, and socks that I’ve replaced needlessly on many an occasion and a much needed charger for the digital camera I haven’t used in three years. The only downside of all of this is that in my desire never to move again I realize I’ll never again have the assurance of, “Meh, I’ll find it when I move.”

Of course, unpacking isn’t all unseasonal yuletide frivolity. Once a box is unpacked, you have to find a place for then things in it, and all the places are taken up by all the stuff that still isn’t unpacked. Upon moving into my new abode, my new brother-in-law, Bill, astutely remarked, “20 minutes to get the truck unloaded…four more months of work left in there.”

Unpacking a house is a lot like juggling debt. There’s a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul going on. Can’t arrange the dining room until I get the dresser downstairs. Can’t move the dresser until I get that chair out of the kitchen. Can’t move the chair until I arrange the front room couches. Can’t arrange the front room couches with my very helpful sister sleeping in one of them. Once you do get a room set up, you realize you’ve made an impossible mess of another in order to do it.

The good news is that only a few weeks have passed since moving day, and I have nearly every room arranged and only 10-15 boxes left to unpack. Bill’s warning notwithstanding, I don’t really think it will take me another three months to finish this job. As long as I can manage to keep Peter from knowing what I’m paying to Paul, I’ll be fine. I may even leave one box unopened until Christmas just for the fun of it. Maybe it will be the camera charger just in time for Christmas pictures.

If it’s a box of my underwear, that might be kind of embarrassing, but I’m willing to take that chance

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dear John...

Published June 1, 2008

St. George Spectrum & Daily News

At this writing, my wedding day is just two days away (at your reading, it's two day's past), and I find myself with a healthy case of nerves. I'd be lying if I told you I thought this was just a case of completely normal and justified pre-second marriage/taking the plunge again/been burned once before type jitters. The painful truth is that I know exactly where these feelings lie.

I haven't written my "Dear John" letters yet.

You can imagine my stress. At any moment during the ceremony, some man (among many) who thinks he's the love of my life might stand and demand his moment to "speak now or forever hold [his] peace." If that happened, I'm sure the person marrying us would simply say we don't do that in this type of ceremony, but that makes it all the more nerve-wracking. How does a man whose heart has been ripped in two respond to that?

I didn't really want to know the answer to that question, hence the tardiness of my letters. Now, I have to struggle over the hearts I've broken AND the guilt of not even giving these guys a chance to interrupt my wedding with their passionate, yet fruitless pleas for my reconsideration. I've decided, therefore, to absolve myself with a...*cough* notice in this newspaper that I am officially off the market.

Notice to the below named: I wish to inform you that I have recently married one Richard D. Clark. This marriage has rendered me unavailable for further relationships with you, outside of friendship. Any claims you may feel you have on my heart are hereby dissolved. Specific reasons for this dissolution follow. I regret any pain and suffering you may feel as a result of this decision, but I accept no responsibility for such. Best of luck to you all.

Harrison Ford: You were more of a childhood crush. I loved your work in the Indiana Jones franchise and look forward to seeing you in your current installment. The fact of the matter is that I grew up and you got old…really old. That earring isn’t fooling anyone, Han.

Will Smith: I know it’s a shock. We’ve been together since you were the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. When all is said and done, however, you’re just not my type. I mean, hey…you’re cute, but there’s only so much if that one woman can take. And I’ve seen The Matrix movies. I’m pretty sure your wife could beat me up. Lovely woman, though.

Josh Groban: What can I say? You really do “raise me up” with your beautiful singing voice. Lets not call this goodbye. It’s just a renegotiation of our relationship. You understand, right? I have all your CDs hidden in the laundry room and have relabeled you as “John Grovan” on my iPod. That’s as far as this married woman is willing to go, so don’t ask for more.

Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic: This is the hardest Dear John of all. You are absolutely everything I want in a man. You’re highly intelligent, funny, weird, goofy, witty, creative, talented, and, well, I might as well call you Richard, the Second. You two even look alike. Perhaps the fact that I’ve married your clone is small comfort to you. I would like to point out that you haven’t exactly been available to me since you married She Who Must Not Be Named. That’s right, Al. You broke my heart first. Consider it comeuppance.

I could probably write similar letters to Gary Sinise, Michael Buble, Gerard Butler, and Patrick Dempsey, but I think I’ve covered the most important ones. Either way, the wedding was not interrupted and my guilt over all these broken hearts is now officially assuaged.

Of course, when George Clooney shows up on my doorstep and says, “What gives?” it will all be back again.