Sunday, December 24, 2006

I Met A Man Who Lives In Tennessee

It's a long time, 13 hours. In a plane, we'd be in Australia by now. But in an overloaded Mitsubishi, containing a barely potty-trained pre-schooler, you can only get to central Michigan. The trip actually went as well as anyone could dare hope. Miss M went through her Bag O' New-Car-Approved Entertainment Devices pretty quickly, but stayed in pretty good spirits throughout the day. I have to thank the good people of Crayola for the truly wonderful Color Wonder collection of mysteriously appearing paint and marker products. I have no idea what sort of chemical magic makes those things work, but they kept M happy and the upholstery mess-free for much longer than any other art product could have done. My best investment, however, was the $2.89 pair of Fiskars for Kids and a $1.59 pad of construction paper. The scissors were sort of like pinking shears, and M spent hours carefully cutting tiny little lettuce-edged squares. I almost sprained something patting myself on the back for that one.

Other highlights of the trip included the vast and astounding array of trailer home Christmas decorating, the completely childish amusement caused by passing Big Bone Lick State Park, and the strangely satisfying sight of Beef Jerky Unlimited. Other than the concept of a full day drive itself, the only real lowlight was the unexpected return of my pregnancy sciatica, which struck about 15 minutes before we got in the car. I had a deep, throbbing pain from hip to knee and spent the entire drive trying to find a position that would allow me to sit without actually using my butt.

We're now at the Admiral's dad's farm, where Miss M is finding entertainment in the horses, tractors and seemingly endless supply of flashlights. We've been eating an unmentionable number of locally produced hot dogs and homemade chocolate malts, although I'm still crediting the fetus for that rapidly growing bump at my waistline. We'll be here tonight and will be expecting Santa's visit before morning, although we hear that he'll also be making at stop at Grammy's house, so we'll be heading that way sometime tomorrow afternoon. It's the first year that M is cognizant of the whole holiday, and on top of the usefulness of the Mighty Santa Threat, it's a pretty joyful thing to see her getting into the spirit. And of course, in her world, the spirit of Christmas means behaving just well enough that all her stuff doesn't get taken away. Which I guess is a start. She's got plenty of time to figure out the whole peace, hope and charity thing. Like the 13 hours it'll take to get home.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What A Jagged Little Pill

Hey, look, I have a blog! It was hard to remember that over the screeching, pulsing pain in my sinuses, let alone conjure an original thought worth posting to such a site. The entire SAM household has been felled by one type of crud or the other, with The Admiral and I both succumbing to matching sinus infections. As further proof of the gender disparity of childrearing, my prescription was for antibiotics and a saline sinus rinse. The Admiral's little paper, from the very same doctor, included instructions for antibiotics ... and codeine! With refills! So I'm standing over the sink shooting saltwater and baking soda up my nose and he's off in Narcoticsville, the seat of Happy County. It is all so very, very unfair.

I resisted taking the antibiotics, because I'm not a big fan of mutating superviruses, but after spending three days feeling like my head was in labor, I finally gave in to the magic bacteria-eaters. My midwives did give me some other options, and I'm sure they were very valid, but I didn't have any of the needed oils or balms in the house, and the idea of trekking out to get them with my eyeball threatening imminent explosion just wasn't so feasible. So I'm on the Omnicef, which is making me feel throw-uppy, and I still haven't quite shaken the congestion, so just when I was about to revel in entering the second trimester, I'm back to feeling like it's my 7th week of pregnancy.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Little Things You Haven't Got Could Be A Lot If You Pretend

Something about PTA meetings always makes me feel like I'm in a surreal netherworld. Okay, technically they're MPA, or Montessori Parent Association, meetings, so we're just talking about appropriate snacks and lost jackets rather than debating the cost of a new metal detector, but I still don't quite feel like I belong. It's not that I don't feel old enough, because I'm four months pregnant with a raging head cold and a daily average of 4 hours of sleep. I can't recall ever feeling older. It's more about not feeling parent-y enough, like at any moment someone's going to demand my credentials and politely but firmly declare that having one tiny little 3-year-old barely qualifies me to assume the title of Mother.

Tonight's meeting was about the upcoming holiday program. It's officially called the "holiday" program on all written material, but they're not fooling anyone. It's a Christmas program. There are angels and donkeys and a big visit from Santa. My cherubic blond, blue-eyed daughter is, of course, a donkey. Or at least that's what I'll be telling myself as I go out to buy her required white dress (wings are provided by the school). I was initially kind of squicked out about the amount of Christmasness being espoused by our non-denominational choice of pre-school. But I'm comfortable with the fact that they talk about a lot of cultural and religious traditions, and to the best of my knowledge, don't seem to officially sanction any one philosophy (other than the mighty cult of Dr. Maria). No, upon further reflection, what bothered me was the fact that my daughter was getting the bulk of her Christmas education from her well-meaning, well-rounded instructors and not her supposedly Christian mother. I couldn't even get her to understand what the Advent calendar was for, other than beating the top of the piano.

Hopefully I get some maternal points for taking notes, staying alert despite weepy eyes and fused sinuses, and even mentioning that we failed to receive our school picture proofs. If I'm going to feel like I'm faking it at these things, I may as well try to be convincing.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Counting The Ways To Where You Are (100 Things)

I'm trying to get over my inner blog hurdles by revealing more personal (yet totally cyber-safe) info about myself, so I figure the quickest way to do that is by creating my own "100 Things About SAM" list, now conveniently repackaged in one long, easily linkable list. So here we go ...

(Last update: Nov. 28, 2008)

1. I can't fold towels.
2. I'm allergic to Band-Aids.
3. I'd gamble more if I'd ever won anything ever.
4. My parents went to four proms together.
5. I've been baptized. Twice.
6. My favorite apple is Braeburn.
7. I've never been the driver in a car accident.
8. Bumping a parked car in a rental Sebring doesn't count, right?
9. I own every Prince album released between 1976-2001.
10. I have just about given up trying to be cool.
11. I'm slowly working through my avoidance of wearing black.
12. I'm not really sure how tall I am.
13. My 13th birthday was on Friday the 13th.
14. I've been to 25 states.
15. Newt Gingrich quoted me on the floor of Congress. And no, I couldn't stop him.
16. I like my mom.
17. I look like my dad. (And I like him, too.)
18. My childhood/lingering family nickname is Geegan.
19. I'm a great driver and a terrible parker.
20. I have a birthmark.
21. I grew up (in the 1980s) thinking The Supremes and The Temptations were contemporary groups.
22. I'm even less likely to make eye contact if I'm talking about myself.
23. I have learned and forgotten how to knit.
24. I have unusually small hands and peculiarly large pupils.
25. My favorite Christmas carol is "O Holy Night."
26. I know how to shuffle off to Buffalo.
27. I got drunk three times during my 20s.
28. I was my first grade class's student council representative and hated every minute of it.
29. The first movie I saw without a supervising parent was Footloose.
30. I'm uncomfortable starting this many sentences with "I."
31. My face doesn't sweat.
32. I got into 4 of the 5 colleges to which I applied. Stupid Pomona.
33. I've been admitted to the hospital twice: to be born and to have a baby.
34. I didn't start wearing pigtails until I was over 25.
35. I physically recoil from playing charades and most demonstrative group games.
36. Most of the DVDs I own are unopened.
37. It's safe to assume that my belt matches my shoes, my earrings match my buttons, and my bra matches my underwear.
38. My best dish is lasagna.
39. I wasn't a very good roommate.
40. My feet are always cold.
41. I never had an imaginary friend, unless you count Rick Springfield.
42. My two biggest fears are knives and fire.
43. I don't like cooking (see above).
44. I have two chicken pox scars on my face because I just wouldn't stop scratching (sorry, mom).
45. I get strangely depressed by the ocean but have a growing tolerance for the beach.
46. I gave birth without any pain medication. Twice. Once in my house.
47. I have a hard time making phone calls.
48. My senior prom dress cost less than $4.
49. My ACT score qualifies me for MENSA.
50. I took linguistics to get out of my college math requirement.
51. I dated my linguistics study partner for a year.
52. My favorite flower is lily of the valley.
53. I can draw just well enough to wish I could really draw well.
54. I went to three elementary schools in three states.
55. I write and bat left-handed; I throw and bowl right-handed.
56. I absolutely, positively cannot read in a moving car without getting ill.
57. Starting in 8th grade, I've gone through several cycles of severe anxiety attacks.
58. I'm better at leaving churches than attending them.
59. I regret that I don't write letters anymore.
60. I can't eat anything that has been in the vicinity of a bell pepper.
61. I have unplugged the toaster after every use ever since seeing The Bourne Identity.
62. I've climbed to a peak in the Rockies.
63. My 10th grade English teacher set me up with my first kiss.
64. I can recite the entire roll call of my 4th grade class by memory. (Baressi, Bohlander, Brown, Casper, Chou ...)
65. I'm a super-taster.
66. I don't buy anything that's dry clean only.
67. I'm embarrassed by my girly fixation with purses and shoes.
68. I was one of the best singers in my high school's worst choir.
69. I have a dirtier mind than anyone suspects.
70. If I won the lottery, I would have homes in Manhattan, Tuscany, and Summit Avenue in St. Paul.
71. I'm near-sighted with astigmatism.
72. I'm drawn to body products that smell like baked goods.
73. I didn't care to learn how to ride a bike, but now I ask for one at every holiday.
74. The only bone I've ever broken was my big toe.
75. I'm dying for someone to invite me out dancing.
76. I'm a decent poker player.
77. My first job was at a candy store.
78. I refuse to learn how to golf or play bridge.
79. I will instinctively turn down the first offer for something to drink.
80. I would have a hard time liking anyone who didn't enjoy The Commitments.
81. I'm patient. Usually.
82. I can never go back to packaged pancake mix.
83. I've been stung by a bee inside my mouth.
84. I can't be trusted to take care of real silver.
85. My desert island album is Sign O' The Times (Prince) because it covers the entire spectrum of human experience, from birth to death and getting ready for a hot island date in between.
86. I can't change the channel if Pretty In Pink is on.
87. My inner feminist doesn't like admitting how much I like John Irving's novels.
88. My inner intellectual-rebel pretends to have read more Vonnegut than I really have.
89. My inner 14-year-old will quote The Outsiders at any opportunity.
90. I can't get anyone to teach me to play guitar.
91. I hate practical jokes.
91. I don't use religious figures as swear words.
92. Nail files and all similarly abrasive surfaces make me cringe.
93. I seriously considered majoring in theater.
94. I can't remember the topic of my college honors thesis.
95. Perception of my eye color varies to such a degree that I've had two different shades on my driver's license.
96. Having a child made me more scared of dying than aging.
97. I'm extremely proud of my sister and she probably doesn't know it.
98. I think most people would be surprised by my personal system of beliefs.
99. I'm not good at finishing things.

And we'll now close with the 10 questions made famous on "Inside The Actor's Studio," originally featured on the French series, "Bouillon de Culture," hosted by Bernard Pivot.

1. Q: What is your favorite word?
A: Effervescent.
2. Q: What is your least favorite word?
A: Pus.
3. Q: What turns you on?
A: The mix of competence and humility.
4. Q: What turns you off?
A: Smarm.
5. Q: What is your favorite curse word?
A: F%*&king-a.
6. Q: What sound or noise do you love?
A: Mourning doves.
7. Q: What sound or noise do you hate?
A: An unwatched television droning in another room.
8. Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A: Talk show host.
9. Q: What profession would you least like to do?
A: Food service.
10. Q: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?
A: Nice kids.

Friday, November 24, 2006

No Matter How Far Away You Roam

Thirty years in, and I feel like I'm in some sort of holiday limbo. My mom (now better known around these parts as Cha Cha, or on formal days, Grandma Cha Cha) called at about 10am on Thanksgiving, while she and my dad (aka Pops) were on their way to Uncle Pete and Aunt Greg's house. Pete has been the host to my family's Thanksgiving dinners for the last two decades, which makes it as close to a family tradition as our nomadic tribe is likely to accomplish. As I was talking to Cha Cha, I could practically smell the turkey, duck and venison laid out in the dining room, and at least four homemade pies waiting in the wings. Even though it's been at least eight years since I spent Thanksgiving in that room, it's still what I think of when the holiday comes around.

But for those last 8 years, The Admiral and I have been working to make our own holiday tradition. Since there are only two of us (who eat like humans, anyway) we came to settle on a Thanksgiving feast that revolves around that most versatile of foods: cheese. We cook up a gouda ball in the afternoon and finish off the day with Triple Cheese Pesto Pizza. Somewhere in between, we watch the parade, flip through edited-for-TV movies, maybe go for a walk. It's not a bad way to spend a day, but I don't think either one of us feels like it's Official.

Christmas is even more complicated, since we alternate between trips to our native homelands in the north. We decorate the house and crank up the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD, but since we're not actually here on the 25th (but our giant gun-toting housesitter is, you nefarious criminal-type blog-readers!) and most of our gift recipients are out of state, we don't even bother putting up a tree. I rarely shop offline because everything has to get shipped anyway, so I don't even get the cheesy peripheral Christmassyness of the mall scene.

Now, now, I'm not trying to make everyone all sad. We have happy holidays and we enjoy the time together, whether it's just our nuclear family or a multi-generational free-for-all. But now that we have a pre-schooler and another baby on the way, we're starting to feel like it's time to pull our ever-shrinking anchor out of the tundra and nurture the roots we're starting to form down here (mixaphorically speaking). We don't have extended family, but our family itself is starting to extend. Soon there will be four of us, but that doesn't take into account the friends who have taken us into their own families. As I was growing up, we lived 2000 miles from my parents' parents, yet I only have rich, happy memories of holidays spent with our close-knit clan of neighbors and the occasional visiting relative. It's hard to think of giving up time with my parents and sister, even thought it's just a week every other year, but I want my children to grow up feeling like their house is enough, that their family is complete, and that anywhere we're loved is home.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sometimes You've Got To Get The Joke

Wow. That was ... fun. Terrifying. Exhilarating. Unforgettable.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I signed myself up to participate in The Funniest Mom In America search, a national contest put on by Nick At Nite. Last night was the open auditions for the Memphis area, which apparently expands from Little Rock to Nashville. I can't possibly give a more thorough recap than Stacey, especially since I wasn't taking notes all evening, but what I remember is this: I did it. I got up on a stage, I took a mic, and I did what I could to make a whole bunch of people laugh. Which, fortunately, they did.

I was interviewed beforehand and a producer asked me why I signed up for the contest. I said something along the lines of, "The chance was right there, and I figured that if I didn't take it, I'd lose the right to say it was my lifelong dream." Because, as ignoble and narcissistic as it may be, it has been my dream for a long, long time. It's something I've spent 20 years wanting to do, and something that, given an opportunity, I felt I really could do.

I was totally prepared for the fact that I might be wrong about that. But I had to try.

I don't mean to get so serious and reflective about a comedy bit. It was three minutes of silliness. But it was also one of those moments that other people, people not at all like me, tend to seek out. A moment that could end in tremendous glory (on scale with killing at a Memphis comedy club) or deflating embarrassment. I'm the type of person who usually walks the middle ground, which means avoiding both extremes. I think that's why so many of my friends jumped at the chance to come out last night. They wanted to show support, of course, but I think they also couldn't resist the chance to see me jump so completely out of character. Or, more accurately, to see a side of myself that rarely makes a public appearance.

Thank you a fazillion times to Chip, Shiloh, Kristy, Mike, Mark, Mary and of course Stacey for coming to support me on one of the most adventurous nights of my life. Thank you to Jeff for patiently waiting for me to say it was okay for him to come. Thank you to Stephanie and Richard for wrangling the monkeys so everyone else could be there. Thank you to Steve for the indispensable help in preparing my set. And thank you again to Stacey for telling me about the contest in a way that clearly said, "If you don't do this, you're nuts." I don't know what will happen next (and won't find out until late December), but I'm already grateful for the experience.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Seeing Places That I've Never Seen

I always feel a constant low-grade anxiety whenever one of my folks is out on the road, and this week the feeling is doubled as both CB continues his westward push through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California while Kim makes her first northern trek to conquer the frozen hearts of Chicago, Madison and Minneapolis. CB's out with a full band, plus his manager, so my only real worries are that the clubs will live up to whatever they promised me three months ago. Kim's out alone, though, and hitting some of these cities for the first time on a professional basis, so I'm feeling very protective and not only hoping that her shows go well, but also that my Midwestern people will unite to assure her a safe journey. I'm really confident that she'll be much appreciated and make a lot of new fans on her way, but that won't make it any easier for a Little Rock girl to navigate freezing rain on I-94. I wonder if there's a Memphian-Minnesotan mom voice program for her GPS unit that can say, "Now, it might not be a bad idea to just pull over in Baraboo and wait for the salt trucks to pass ..."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Guy Said Honey, You're A Funny Girl

I had been hoping to launch an unofficial NaBloPoMo over here, but I've been too busy working on my bit for the The Funniest Mom in America competition. Yes, the agent is stepping out of the green room and onto the stage, thanks to the supportive goading of Stacey and the somewhat unsupportive smirks from certain friends who think I can only be funny in two dimensions (suck it, Cory!). It seemed like an amazingly well-timed chance to follow up on my life-long dream of pursuing stand-up comedy, so in a swift move that surprised everyone who's ever met me, I read about the Memphis auditions and immediately emailed the local comedy club for a spot. And I got one. And now ... I have to show up. With the funny. I secretly slipped some of my bit onto the playgroup moms this morning, and it went very well, but I know that the Wednesday night crowd at Comedy, TN isn't likely to be a bunch of sleep-deprived mamas. But hopefully, it'll be some of you. Did I mention that it's November 15? At 8:15pm? Bring all your hard-drinking, child-humor-loving friends!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Hold On To The Feelin'

Over in my other world, I just posted and mailed a lengthy missive offering up the store for sale. It's something I've been thinking of doing for a long time, and something that seemed imperative once I saw that second line on the EPT, but it was still hard to do. Before I was the owner of Mothersville, I was a devoted patron, and I spent many, many days of pregnancy and new motherhood sunk into the big comfy couch, talking to other moms and trying to figure out just what exactly I'd done to my life. I developed a brand new circle of friends among women brought together by their choices (and sometimes, lack of choices) in parenting. I found a compatible childbirth educator, invaluable doula and doctor recommendations, support with breastfeeding, and most importantly, a place to ask questions or just vent about the daily struggles of baby life. There were a lot of mornings when the support "group" was just Kristy and I, and her friendship and unwavering support got me through what I only now realize were some of the darkest days (and weeks, and months) of my adult life. (Which I've never properly thanked her for, but I'm sure she can read the effusive Nordic praise between the lines.)

When Kristy decided to leave the store, I didn't see how it could go on without her. She wasn't just the owner, she was the Mother of Mothersville. But when another mama bravely jumped in and put herself on the line to keep the store open, I realized that the only thing worse than Kristy leaving would be for the store to go with her. So we partnered up, U and I, and the doors stayed open. The sign went on the front. The mamas kept coming, new groups of them popping up every few months like seasonal bulbs.

When U decided to leave our partnership last winter, I was again uncertain about the future of Mothersville, but I felt more determined than ever to keep providing this resource to the mamas of Memphis, or at least the 5% of them who needed us. I've learned a lot in the last two years, learning that has translated into better sales and lower losses, and I know that if I could hang around longer I'd learn even more. But I can't. I'm at a crossroads where I either need to make a huge plunge or gather up my marbles and go home. And I don't have any more marbles to spare. Thanks to my corporate lay-off four months into motherhood, our family income is 40% less than it was 1.5 kids ago. So it's time. I've put in what I can and now it's up to the next mama, or hopefully mamas, to take the reins. It's been an unconventional business model to this point, but it pretty accurately represents the constant hustling and shuffling most new moms have to do. Doing what works as long as you can, and then figuring out the next thing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hit Me, Baby, One More Time

After a few years of this, I'm used to the idea that parenting means making sacrifices, but it's still jolting to see how those sacrifices manifest themselves. I've spent the last four months putting together a 20-city tour for CB, the first one he's ever done with a full backing band, and last night marked the kick-off date for this auspiscious run. And I missed it. I popped in for sound check but had to excuse myself before the Marlboro haze descended on the Hi-Tone. Not because I didn't want to snuggle up to my three-year-old with cigarette funk in my hair (she's gotten used to that), but because of the tiny little client in my belly. Yep, folks, I'm on my way to being a Secret Agent Mom of Two.

As excited as I am, it's still hard to retreat back into the mode of selflessness that is required of pregnancy and brand-new-parenthood. I'd just started getting used to the fact that I could eat a full meal or read a book or complete a day's work without constant interruption, and now I see all that being pulled away again. It's easier in a way, though, because now I know how quickly it will pass. Those sleep-deprived, half-starved, entertainmentless months seemed endless, but looking back, I realize they weren't as long as they seemed. And I also know that I won't be a shriveled, fun-shunning curmudgeon by the time they're over, which was another one of my fears the first time around. Not unless I want to be, anyway. I have to admit, getting home and into my flannel pajamas by 8:30 didn't seem like such a bad way to spend an evening. Maybe it's not just the babies who grow up.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Girls Girls Girls

When I was pregnant with M, and for the many years I considered motherhood before that, I hoped for a son. My primary explanation for this feeling was the fact that boys are much less likely to turn rabid on their mothers when they hit adolescence, but now that I have a daughter, I see that I had other, deeper reasons for this preference.

We were out trick or treating with two of M's friends last night, and there they were, three adorable little girls filled with excitement and anxiety and a total sense of wonder. They clung to each other's hands and walked down the dark, muddy sidewalk in an impenetrable line of cuteness. And then, of course, the fighting began. M wanted to hold L's hand. J wanted to hold L's hand. M didn't want to hold J's hand. J wanted to hold L's and M's hands at the same time. (And L pretty much wanted everyone out of her personal space for one freaking minute.) And all I could think was, well, here we go. The first stop on the long line of female tension over friendship, affection and belonging. It's a straight shot from here to awkward middle-school slumber parties and demeaning pledge nights.

Which is, of course, ridiculous. They were just a bunch of pre-schoolers having some normal social tussles. But I can't help my mind from shooting backward and remembering my own struggles to fit in among my female peers. I've had one or two close girlfriends along the way, but for the most part, my childhood, teenage years and most of my twenties were spent feeling well outside the walls of Girl World. I didn't get the rules, I didn't speak the language, and I never had the right shoes.

I've realized that my desire for a son was not caused by my fear of having a daughter so much as my fear of being one. It was hard enough going through it all the first time, I can hardly imagine how it might feel to see looks of rejection and embarrassment reflected in my daughter's eyes. I know that being a boy wouldn't spare her from that, but my empathy wouldn't be quite so deep and raw. But maybe it won't be as hard for her as it was for me ... which brings up my even greater fear: that she'll be the girl doing the ostracizing instead of the innocent ostrich.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Who's Still Around The Morning After?

Why is it that the morning-after fatigue is so much worse when the night-before was spent wrestling a three-year-old to sleep rather than sitting in a smoky bar with 100 decibels aimed at my head? I guess perhaps it's because I'm not waking up with any fun memories of revelry, just a fuzzy recollection of tiny toes digging into my stomach while I traversed the Parenting Tactics spectrum between "Honey, hush," and "Shut it!" Or maybe because, when one of my friends starts whining "I'm hunnnngryyyy" at 2:00 in the morning, the next logical step is a trip to IHOP, not a thirty minute discussion about why we can't eat applesauce in bed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Crazy Mama Coming Back To Me

Sometimes my worlds collide like a couple roller derby jammers (Angelina Roll-ie and Smashimi, to be specific), and nothing but hilarity can possibly ensue. Last night's case in point: my spontaneous trip to David Sedaris' reading at the Cannon Center. Granted, it's hard for there not to be hilarity when any Sedaris is involved in the scenario, but in this particular outing, more than 51% of the fun occured after the professional humorist left the stage. And the anthropologist/writer/zinestress/roller derby team captain took the stage. Like a ninja. It's all well documented over on Stacey's blog (1 of 3), but I need to state, for the record, how impressed I was by the fact that the most daring maneuver of the night was accomplished not by the wild, free, twentysomething, single people of the party, but rather the homebirthin', Peace Corp-ing mother of two.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mama Don't Go

Well, it's not so bad really, this being thirty thing. Other than the abundance of vomit (the child's and the cat's) that greeted the change in years, this decade has gotten off to a decent start. I've already seen two movies, gone out to eat three times, and enjoyed a piece of cake with nearly every meal. If things keep up at this rate, it'll be the best (and enormousest) year ever.

Of course, things won't keep up at this rate, because as of 11:00 this morning, we went back to being the extended-family-less unit we were before my parents got to town five days ago. No more free, reliable, on-call babysitting, no more extra hands around the house or extra energy around the child. My dad even offered to put me up in a hotel room for a night, all by myself, and if I'd had the good sense to say yes he'd have done it in a heartbeat. Because that's what family does, they look out for you and step right up when they know you need some help. And also pick on you pretty bad when the situation calls for it. Or maybe that's just my family.

I'm sure that if my parents lived in town, I'd spend more time than I do now doing things that may not be at the top of my Fun List, like going to horse shows and outlet malls, but it would be more than worth it. When I see my friends with multiple children, I always wonder how they can possibly manage it all - child-rearing, marriage maintenance, jobs, outside interests - and then I realize that, in 90% of cases, those multi-breeders have close relatives nearby. And that's how it's supposed to be. That's why people spend their whole lives in ridiculous places like International Falls, MN and Marked Tree, AR. Now that I have offspring, I can see myself going back to ice scrapers and white-outs and air so cold it actually affects the genetic composition of your unconceived children, just for the benefit of sharing a seat on the constant roller coaster of joy and agony that is being a mother.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

When Autumn Leaves Start To Fall

The daytime high in Memphis today isn't expected to get above 50 degrees, and I'm loving it. As a child of the Great Lakes, it's impossible for me to acknowledge that it's autumn when the temperatures are in the 70s. And I need it to feel like fall, because fall makes me happy. My Scandinavian genes should dictate a downward shift in mood along with the dropping mercury, but nothing brings an unexpected smile to my face more than walking outside and smelling the aroma of burning leaves carried on a crisp breeze. I've adapted somewhat to the Memphis summer, but I feel nothing but relief once it's over. I love wearing my favorite jeans without wishing I hadn't, making hot tea instead of iced, taking the dog for a long walk rather than a forced march. Oh and also, fall means my birthday. After years on the tundra, I expect a certain amount of cool weather before my annual festivities. If my birthday comes and goes without a dip in the thermometer, it's almost like it doesn't happen. A few weeks later, when it does cool off, I start thinking about chocolate frosting and updating my Amazon wishlist and then realize, "Gah! Too late!"

So thanks to the unseen meteorological forces for this properly autumnal day. The last of my twenties, as it happens. I guess there's some metaphor to be made about seasons and leaves and drying up and dying on the ground while people step on your crackling frame, but I'll just let it go. My tea's ready.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Went To See The Doctor Of Philosophy

In an exciting confluence of my two favorite pastimes, two thirds of my roster will be performing at the Southern Festival of Books going on in downtown Memphis this weekend (specifically, at the convention center and Main St. mall). I'd tell you exactly when they're all playing, but in another, less exciting confluence, my lovely daughter practiced her scissor skills on the tiny slip of register tape where I'd written all the performance times. I know that Jimmy plays on Friday evening, Blair is on Saturday afternoon (1-2, I believe), Jamie's set is Saturday late afternoon (4-6 sounds familiar) and Kim is playing from 3-4:30 on Sunday. This is the type of event I'd normally pine to attend but would forego due to a total intolerance for dragging a pre-schooler through crowds of aloof intelligentsia, but since my parents will be on hand this weekend to help out with child-wrangling and it's my birthday, I may actually be able to make a go of it. And then spend all my commission money on books for Garrison Keillor to sign.

Friday, October 06, 2006

An Alright Guy

Not only did Blair get a coveted spot at last night's Folk Alliance party, he went ahead and won himself a showcase at the International Folk Alliance Conference, representing Memphis in front of 3000 industry types. The real kind, not just maternal posers. Atta boy!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Working For The Weekend

Now's the part of the week when I start looking through the Flyer to figure out which shows I won't be able to see this weekend. Tonight, Blair's got a showcase spot at the Folk Alliance's "No Boundaries" party, which is basically a party celebrating the exact quirky little genre in which I've found myself entrenched. The info says it's free for "members of the Mid-south music and media arena." I'm not sure how you prove that you're a member. Maybe by quoting Lucero lyrics or being able to tell what the "T" stands for in Harlan T. Bobo.

Then there's Jimmy's shows. My poor neglected Jimmy. He's playing Otherlands on Saturday, and then joining up with the most intriguing band in Memphis, The Cooking Hookers, at the Buccaneer on Sunday. But barring the sudden heavenly descent of Mary Poppins, it doesn't look like I'll be able to catch either one. Sorry, guys! Why can't you ever play anywhere with a ballpit?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Wake Up, Little Susie

I was going to throw out a quick post yesterday, summing up BC's crochety-yet-charming show at The Hi-Tone on Wednesday night, but I was just too dang tired. In this week's Flyer, Chris Herrington echoes the common complaint about the start times of live Memphis music, saying that it prohibits people with kids and jobs from attending weeknight shows, and I have to agree. Well, sort of. It is nice to know that I can still catch a show even after tending to all necessary bedtime duties, but it would also be nice to be able to use a reasonable start time as an excuse to get out of bedtime duty in the first place. In Wednesday's case, I planned to get there a little early so I could fill the despised job of Door Girl, but fortunately I arrived late enough that the task had already been handed off, so I was able to sit further than 10' from the monitors and enjoy my free water without having to hassle anyone for five bucks.

Wednesday night crowds are funny. It seems to be a good night to draw the respectful, songwriter-friendly folks, along with a decent helping of kindly nutjobs. Holly Cole got things going, and played some lovely stuff with Johna from Giant Bear. Then Blair hauled himself onstage and proceeded to ignore all requests yet make everybody happy for an hour, finishing his set with a rousing full-band number with Giant Bear. GB finished up the night, but I only made it through about 4 songs before my internal alarm went off. I got home, changed, brushed and into bed approximately 6 minutes before M woke up and started wailing for me (and 2 minutes after I'd fallen asleep). She was interested in the lightning, so it took a little while to get her to focus on sleeping. I got her settled in bed and we were both just drifting off when the curtains at the head of the bed suddenly came crashing down, along with the 6-foot long, 4-inch wide metal curtain rod. Wide awake again. 1:30 am. So goes the glamorous life of Secret Agent Mom.

My favorite part of the night was when the cigarette-pusher came up to Rachel, pointed to Holly and asked, "Is that Blair Combest?" Me and my gender-ambigious roster.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Let Me Ride On The Wall Of Death

I'm deeply conflicted by the entire fair concept. The expectation of fun is nearly oppressive, and the options for entertainment are so overwhelming that it sort of makes me want to go sit in an empty room and rock back and forth for awhile. And now that I have a child who is old enough to have her own tastes (for fried Snickers) and preferences (for rides that involve trucks or oversized fruit), it adds a whole new risk for decision-induced meltdown. Not to mention how difficult it is to explain that there are some things we just are not going to do, like spend $20 trying to win a dusty, oversized stuffed Nemo or taking a ride on the giant ferris wheel. (No, I'm not a total crank, it's just that we went on the humongous ferris wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago and I spent the entire ride trying not to throw up while M tried to squeeze out of the 6" gap between the door and floor.)

My biggest conflict of this year's fair outing, however, came in the beer tent. Someone - I'm not sure if it was Miller or Budweiser or if there's even a difference - spent some money bringing bands in to play for the ... well, crowd is too strong a word. Sparsely distributed collection of random strangers looking for someplace to sit and eat, or else possibly waiting in line for beer is a better description. It was a group of various demographics who all had one thing in common: complete disinterest in the people standing on stage with the instruments. We even saw one guy standing 20 feet away from the stage, trying to carry on a cell phone conversation over the 120-decibel Skynyrd medley going on behind him. As Kip Kilpatrick and the Kippers* rocked their little hearts out, playing Pink Floyd covers as well as original songs that all sounded like Train B-sides, the "audience" totally ignored them. Which was my first instinct as well, but then the singer mentioned something about their 10-hour drive from Virginia and I almost wanted to cry. I suddenly felt a deep sympathy for these guys, traveling halfway across the country in a ratty conversion van to play a three-hour set in the middle of a Monday afternoon so a bunch of half-drunk Memphians would have something to listen to while they ate their footlong Pronto Pups. So when they finished their hard rock cover of "Whisky In The Jar" and M clapped with all the enthusiasm her drained little body could muster, I clapped right along. I think I may have even hooted.

And then I got a Pronto Pup.

*I made that up. The frontman actually looked like Dave Navarro. Or thought he did.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

After The Rain

Rain? We ain't afraid of no rain!

Thanks to the good folks at Strings and Things, we were able to hold Rock'n'Romp as scheduled, with only a few minor alterations to the plan (no beer and a little more paperwork - pesky legality!). But we still had the RnR mainstays, like fake tattoos and a bottomless cooler of Flav-O-Ice (am I the only one who wants to say that like Flava Flav? "Flav-o-IIIIIIIIIICE!"). And of course, some of the best of Memphis' ridiculously rich pool of musicians. Jeffrey James and the Haul got things going, and proved that there's no better way to warm up a room full of toddlers than a couple tuba solos. Sidewalk Talk continued the fun and even had the parents on their tired ol' feet by the end of their set.

But the biggest surprise - well, to me, anyway - was watching CB pull off a fully functional and totally entertaining show while surrounded - nay, ambushed! - by tiny rockers. Considering that he was near to nausea before getting onstage, it was impressive to see him not only warm up to the wee little fans but completely embrace the gaggle of itty back-up dancers. It also eased my guilt over booking him for a free show in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. I swear, I knew all along that he'd have a good time and it wasn't just a cruel booking joke, like when I sent him up for his first Minnesota show in January.

Photo credit:

Photo credit: The Chockleyblogs

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rock'n'roll, baby!

I'm using all my mental meteorological powers to will good weather this way, because I've spent all summer looking forward to the upcoming Rock'n'Romp and it will break my icy little heart if it gets tornadoed out. The general RnR concept is a melding of my two greatest interests - Memphis music and watching my child shake her ever-lovin' booty. And since CB is scheduled to play at this weekend's event, it's an even deeper confluence of my double life. Miss M hasn't heard CB play since ... well, since she was in utero. (Someday I'll explain to her that she even got to hang out backstage at Letterman while a gang of Memphis boys played their guts out on big ol' national tee-vee.)

Ooh, this just in ... there is a serious-rain plan, so if you want to know how to get in on all the rocking and romping action, hit the link above to get on the evite list.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Middle Child

My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
- Vladimir Nabokov

Happy birthday, Blair!

Nether Say Nether

I think the Dutch are lovely people (as well as at least 12% of my ancestry), but they really need to do something about their street names. I was late for work this morning because I was mailing out a few CDs to the Netherlands, and I had to write out "Ambtshuisstraat" and "Kwikstaartlaan" in triplicate. The buyers of these CDs have already contacted me wondering where the heck their orders are, and I've had to be very creative to avoid saying "sitting in my bag for the last few weeks." It's not that I haven't tried to mail them, but when the local post office is out of customs forms in the queue area, I very rarely have the time to wait in line and then fill out all the necessary, vowel-heavy documents. I left half an hour early just so I'd have time to get through them, and I still ran long. Not as long as those streets, though. Sheesh.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

5 Steps to 12 Steps

So how does one become a secret agent mom? It's quite simple, really. First, you harrass the most desparate-seeming local musician until he can't help but accept your repeated offers of free assistance - website maintenance, mailing list missives, street team coordination, etc.

Then you have a baby.

Then you get laid off from your comfy corporate telecommuting job, around which you tailored your entire parenting style.

You scramble for a few months doing everything from freelance writing to hawking hemp lip balm, until eventually, your years of loyalty pay off and you're offered a chance to get compensated for some of that musical labor. The only catch is that it's for doing the most thankless, stressful, soul-bruising job in the music industry: booking out-of-town shows. It's sort of like going to a strange town and doing door-to-door sales of magic invisible fairy dust, except with the demand that you get paid in free beer.

But the chance to help out some friends, combined with the draw of getting into shows for free (you know, if you can sneak out after your child's bedtime), is too much to pass up. You fire up the Excel spreadsheet and get to work. And then thirteen minutes later, hit Ctrl+S and go find out what that strange thumping/scraping sound coming from the living room is.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dichotomy (part 1)

It was 5:17 pm when I got a call from W*, my poker buddy, former ad salesman and local music magnate. He was on his way to a meeting with JR, and asked if I wanted to come along. W's sneaky like that.

He'd emailed me a few days prior, extolling the virtues of young master JR and casually mentioning that the poor boy was having a bit of trouble getting shows together. I tried to ignore the bait, as I generally do when I hear that valid but common complaint, and I busied myself by going over the 419 things I needed to get done for my current clients. But then, as I was innocently checking my MySpace messages, I ran smack into an email from JR's friend/manager-type-guy, chock full of links to JR's debut album. Curiosity got the better of me, and I clicked. I listened. I promptly sent an expletive-laden email back to W., cursing him out for having the gall to drop a really, really talented songwriter on me. Now what was I supposed to do, say no thanks and watch him wander off to another agent who would recognize his talent and set up a 50-city tour but pay no attention to whether or not he owned a decent parka?

So when W called, I was torn. Not only was I unsure if I could commit to another artist, but I also had to get to my daughter's PTA meeting half an hour later. The wardrobe decision alone was nearly enough to keep me at home - how could I possibly find something to wear that would suit both scenarios? Was there anything in my closet that simultaneously said "culturally aware" (read: young) and "maternally responsible" (read: able to locate Band-Aids in less than 3 seconds)? But I threw caution - and my mom shorts - to the wind and agreed to meet W and JR for coffee.

From the minute I saw his bedheaded silhouette, I knew I was done for. Maybe if all songslingers didn't look like 8-year-old boys, I'd have an easier time telling them that no, they'll just have to take care of their careers themselves. The meeting itself was as fruitful as possible, considering the normal level of awkwardness between two people who've never met yet have had other people trying to hook them up for the last week. Considering JR and I are both married, that's not a situation we're accustomed to these days. W earned his nickname of The Great Facilitator (okay, I don't know if anyone calls him that, but they should) and somehow managed to plan out the next six months of our lives, all in the course of one bottle of green tea. Of course, maybe he didn't realize he was planning out that far, but that's how long it takes to set up a decent tour. Just as I was about to issue my slow sigh of contented resignation, I realized it was time to pack up my briefcase/diaper bag and head off to the PTA meeting.

Life lesson of the day: the PTA doesn't recognize "club time"; they actually start meetings when they say they will. It's hard to be a very secretive agent when you're creeping in the squeaky front door right in the middle of the cookie dough fundraiser briefing.

* Look, I'm still deciding how anonymous to be, or at least how much privacy to give other people. Give me a week and I'll probably be giving names, cell phone numbers and SAT scores.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Introducing ...

All mothers have a double life: the one they had before offspringing, and the one that came afterward. But in my case, the split became even more pronounced when I simultaneously took on two full-time duties: 1) raising a daughter, and 2) trying to keep professional musicians in one, preferably employed piece. And this is how it goes.