Thursday Throwback: COEXIST

No one asked for it, but today I’m reprinting something from my old blog.  It has special meaning for me, because it marks the day that an entire branch of my extended family stopped speaking to me.

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In the “I’m Too Late For a Dentist Appointment To Key Your Car Right Now, But I’ll Get You Later” department, we have this bumper sticker:

which has been cropping up all over our area.

I live near a college town, which makes me, by definition, fatter, slower, less hip, and more endarkened than 60% of the population. Bumper stickers abound: mostly of the “I heart peace/let’s behead Bush” variety.

The cars so intelligently adorned seem to congregate outside a store called “The Hemporium.” I always enjoy passing by this place, because it has a huge banner over the door, proclaiming: “Come in and educate yourself!” irresistibly bringing to mind the Lilo and Stitch alien Pleakley,

 

an Earth enthusiast who devotes himself to the preservation of the mosquito food chain.

Anyway, as a claustrophobic, misanthropic, misogynistic, pediphobic, clutter-hating mother of twenty-seven who lives in a self-storage unit, I’m all for coexisting. I’ve even been known to . . . are you ready for this? . . . tolerate people who aren’t exactly like me. Mainly because everyone I know has managed, through twelve step programs and extensive plastic surgery, to avoid being exactly like me.

If by “coexist” you mean “don’t kill people who don’t agree with you,” I am all for that (although I’m not sure who worries that this message is going unheard in rural Southern New Hampshire). Or if there are people who do need to hear this message . . . you really think a bumper sticker will change their minds? Do me a favor and go nag yourselves, if you know what I mean.

I guess it wouldn’t be so grating if it just spelled out its little one-word sermon in regular letters, although I realize the message would lost some of its putative punch that way. I see what they’re trying to do by using symbols as letters: they’re trying to say that all of these ideas–Christianity, Judaism, Peace (which is separate from Christianity, dontcha know), Yin Yangitude, etc.– all fit together into one large, overarching shelter called “coexistence.”

It’s terribly fashionable to take important, very specific ideas and paste them into a collage demonstrating Everythingness. They’re trying to say, “Can’t we all just get along?” without sounding like a punchline.

Well, this is worse than using a picture of child’s face as a mouse pad, which is unseemly. This is worse than using the American flag as boxer shorts or dish towels, which is disrespectful. By using meaningful symbols as mere letters in a word, this bumper sticker subsumes the significant and specific into a suffocating mass of indiscriminate acceptance.

Don’t use the cross as a T, okay? And don’t use the star of David as an X. They’re not, like, logos for “Jesus Brand” and “Judaism, Inc.” Don’t tell me “it’s just a design” or “we were going for the visual impact — don’t read too much into it.” You should be glad someone’s paying attention to your message.

I don’t think it’s blasphemous; I just think it’s dangerously careless. Are you sure you want to just swallow down that soup without checking out the ingredients first? A few of those symbols look awfully prickly.

And fish that cross out for me! I need it.

 

“I’m not a homosexual. I’m a man.”

Come on over and see me at Faith and Family today (for real this time!), where I have a short interview with a young, gay, faithful Catholic man.  You’ll like him — he’s so clean and articulate!  But something tells me Joe Biden would not be impressed.

And hello and welcome to Faith and Family and Creative Minority Report readers.  Stick around for tomorrow, when we will  . . . okay, I have no idea what we will be doing tomorrow.  The Jerk, who usually reviews movies on Thursdays, is taking a few days off.  I think he found himself singing along with Pat Benetar during the big climax in The Legend of Billy Jean,

and is going on a retreat to reassess his life goals.   But he will be back!

Vaya con Dios, The Jerk.

My Two Sons

I was shopping with my eight-year-old son, and the checkout lane was the usual gauntlet of trashy magazines.  I was about say my usual warning line, which is, “Do yourself a favor and don’t look at that garbage,” when I heard him GASP.

“Look!”  he said, “–Kittens!”

Sure enough, it was a picture of kittens:

I love that kid.

I also love my other, 6-year-old son, of course, but he would not have focused on the kittens.  He’s more this kind of guy:

Anyone have a nice six-year-old daughter who goes for the handsy type?  I’d like to arrange a marriage now.

My favorite joke

Today, I’m really glad to have a Monday joke lined up, because I’m going to do something kind of awful first, and I don’t want you to be mad at me.

Here is this video.  I guess it’s a local TV station that gives political candidates a minute or so to make their case directly to the voter.  So here’s what one guy came up with:

Now, being a kind and generous person, I thought to myself, “Wellllllll . . . maybe he just has super duper stage fright.  Maybe he actually does have something to say, but he is just extra, extra, unbelievably bad at conveying ideas.

So what if he forgot to brush his hair?  So what if he sounds like a combination of Sylvester the Cat and Homestar Runner?   Who cares that he introduces himself in a somewhat less-than-gubernatorial fashion by saying, “Hi, I’m Basil Marceaux Dot Com”? It is still possible that he has a good idea in there somewhere.

That is what motherhood does to your power of  discernment.  If mothers weren’t able to say “shush” to what reason is screaming in our ears, then our six-year-old sons would be in big, big trouble.

So, half in charity and half in morbid curiosity, I checked out his website.

Okay, so it turns out that . . . well, whatever conclusion you jumped to when you saw his video, you were right.

My favorite part is that there is the homepage, and then there is a link to page four.  Pages two and three?  What are you, some kind of elitist?

This, my friends, is disorderly thinking on a heroic scale.  Other information that Ithink I gathered from reading the least informative prose ever (and I once saw a book report that went:  “The Littel Airplane.  It is about a littel airplane”):

  • He definitely got arrested at some point.
  • He doesn’t like the flag?  Or it’s the wrong flag, or something.  I believe he is saying there is a goldfish on one flag, but he wants the one with three stripes to come back.  In the service of this goal, he was hit many times with a stun gun.
  • He seems to be proposing that, in order to save money in gassing up public vehicles, we should plant corn in the medians of highways, and convert the harvest into biofuel.

Sorry, folks.  Basil Marceaux is, of course, a child of God like the rest of us, and it’s not nice to make fun.  But I died laughing just the same.

Well, anyway, here’s the much more seemly joke I promised–no victim, no crime!  I got this one from my sister, again, who should have her own blog, or at least get royalties from mine.

Oh, and despite my flagrant nepotism, I’m still collecting jokes! Send your best joke to simchafisher at gmail dot com.  (Hi, I’m Simcha Fisher Dot Com.)

The philosophy department is having a meeting, and an angel appears and offers the department head one blessing: he may choose wisdom, beauty, or ten million dollars. He hesitates for just a moment and then chooses wisdom.

There’s a sound of trumpets and the guy becomes too bright to look at for a few seconds. Then silence. He is staring down at the table, and all the other professors say to him, “Say something!!”

He looks up at them and says, “I should have picked the money.”

That tingling means it’s working!

I got all writey today, and posted something about tattoo removal on Inside Catholic.  It’s silly – don’t even bother going over there.  I already commented on my own post, so I won’t be too lonely if you don’t.

7 books you will enjoy reading to your kids

Boy, this list was much harder to make than I expected!  Too many subcategories.  I’ll just have to be satisfied with a general theme of “sevenness,” but I’d like to do more reading lists later.  Or is that boring?

These are just seven books which I enjoyed as a child, which my kids read or wanted to hear over and over again, and, most importantly, which I didn’t mind reading to my kids over and over again.

There are so many books which have good stories, but aren’t told well – they’re clunky, wordy, repetitive in the wrong way, or just aren’t crafted with any understanding of how kids listen or think.  But these seven are books that got it right, and have fantastic illustrations, too.

Check out Conversion Diary for more links to everyone else’s 7 Quick Takes!

Seven Books You Will Enjoy Reading to Your Kids

 

–1–

 

Half Magic by Edward Eager.

I never understood why this book isn’t more widely-read (and I think it would make a great movie, too).  One summer, four children find a magic talisman which grants half wishes, which leads not only to complications and surprises, but ethical dilemmas (they accidentally made an iron dog half-alive.  Should they make it turn back into iron, or bring it fully to life?).  The story is incredibly original, it moves along so nicely, and the children and their relationships with each other are so funny and real–it’s a perfect read-aloud book.  The illustrations by N. M. Bodecker are also charming and really add something to the story.  The author wrote six other books in the same vein, and all are worth reading, but Half Magic is by far the best.

–2–

The entire Frog and Toad series, Owl at Home, Fables, and Mouse Tales and Mouse Soup written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel.

Lobel also wrote several other books, but these are the best.  So simple and deft, so gentle and witty and full of affection.  Frog and Toad are imbued with more personality than any character in a modern novel that I can name — but Lobel does it in five pages of easy-reader words.  The vocabulary is simple, but it’s no Go, Dog, Gophonics slog– his prose is a delight to read, never a chore.  You never have to go back and reread, because you said some dialogue with the wrong expression–it’s all there.  Arnold Lobel ought to be studied in writing classes, and “The Dream” ought to be required reading for first confession classes.

–3–

Tales From Grimm told and illustrated by Wanda G’ag.

All the unvarnished truth about fairy tale characters, bloody feet, gouged out eyes, and all.  These aren’t just stories, they’re little masterworks of rhythm.     The illustrations are otherworldly and unforgettable, and the book includes many less familiar stories, too.  Snip, snap, snout, my tale’s told out!  (Also by this author, and recommended:  The Funny Thing, Millions of Cats, Snippy and Snappy)

–4–

Granfa’ Grig Had a Pig and Other Rhymes without Reason from Mother Gooseselected and illustrated by Wallace Tripp.

I feel like my kids should know Mother Goose, but in most editions, the illustrations are creepy, sappy, or bland.  This is because the subject matter of nursery rhymes is often bizarre, and no one is sure how to handle the weirdness.  Wallace Tripp, one of my favorite illustrators, lets the lunacy and hilarity come through (often providing sly commentary on the rhyme).  They are full of detail to fascinate kids, and they’re just funny and refreshing.  He also has inluded lots of lesser-known rhymes that you will be glad to know (“Slug abed, slug abed barley butt, / Your bum is so heavy, you can’t get up” comes to mind).

–5–

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

Demeter and Persephone

All of the books written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire (I just like saying those names!) are wonderful, but Greek Myths is the one I liked the best as a kid.  The illustrations always make me think of William Blake on summer vacation:  the same primitive feel, the same slightly over-determined composition, and the same naked emotionalism of the faces — but more color, more flesh, more fun.  And the stories are just right:  they have lots of action, lots of humor and pathos, but manage to be decorous–no easy feat.  Those gods were weird.

–6–

Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories.

“The Mixed-Up Feet and the Silly Bridegroom”

For a wonderful introduction to Jewish storytelling, here is a collection of seven sweet, strange, and funny stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, unforgettably illustrated by the master, Maurice Sendak.  I’ve read other books written and illustrated by this pair, but this one shows them both at their best.

–7–

Homer Price, More Homer Price, and Centerburg Tales.

Another undeservedly neglected collection.  A young boy in a rural town (where, without explanation, several of the inhabitants are named after classical heroes and authors) gets into peculiar adventures with skunks, superheroes, balls of yarn, giant ragweed, mysterious mousecatchers, and disastrously catchy rhymes.  Just satisfying and entertaining, and, again, lively and funny illustrations by the author, another favorite of mine, Robert McCloskey.

links to image sources:

Homer Price

Zlateh the Goat

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Half Magic

Greek Myths

Wallace Tripp

Frog and Toad

Happy weekend, everyone!  I’ve been in a fog all week, and can’t get ahold of my syntax.  Sorry if anything above doesn’t make sense.

Why don’t you like my shoes?

I am not great with clothes shopping.  As I have mentioned before, shopping bundles together being fat and being old and being cheap into a tense, ugly ball of being miserable, effectively blotting out the pleasure of getting new stuff.

You’d think shoe shopping would be different–easier, simpler, less emotionally fraught.   You don’t even have to look in the mirror.  But somehow, I make it difficult.  I don’t know how it is, but all the shoes I come home with are just so dang stupid.

The one exception is what I was wearing today, when I took three kids for their well-child check ups.  I then drove three kids right back home again when seemingly-well child #3 threw up on previously-well children numbers 1 and 2 in the doctor’s parking lot.  Then I went to the supermarket to pick up something nice and bland for supper.  So here’s those shoes:

Moderately cute, aren’t they?  They’re fairly comfortable, they go click-click-click, which makes me feel brisk and capable, and they were only $3 at Target.  Believe it or not, these are my dressiest dress shoes, as well as my go-to footwear when dragging nauseated children around town.

Next, I present the shoes I actually squealed about (in my head) when I found that they were my size. They cost ten whole dollars.  For someone who generally shops at stores called things like “Ye Kingdom of Consign-a-lot,” these were a downright frivolous purchase.

Especially when I got home and remembered that I recently made another frivolous purchase:  a bright green purse.  To go with my bright red shoes.  Fa la la la la!

Next:  my comfortable, expensive sandals which do a good shoe’s job of making me forget that I’m wearing them:  my trusty old non-deluxe Tevas.

Or Teva, because I can only find one.

These next ones are the shoes I wore on my recent one-day hiking spree, because I couldn’t find my other Teva:

Can’t you see how malevolent they are?  I don’t know how they got into my house, but when I put them on, it looks like someone was angry at my feet.  “Take that!   Grrrrrrr, here’s some webbing with big, ugly stictching, and arrrrrr, here’s some rigid hunks of rubber.  I’ll teach you to have ten little toes and flexible skin!”  Worst blisters ever.  Seriously, they even made my eight-year-old son avert his eyes, and he really, really likes gross stuff.

Here is another shoe of mine.  I think you can see why it’s single:

I bet her partner never even took the time to see if she has a great personality.  Poor dear.  Now she’ll have to go join the shoe convent on the porch, where spinsters spend their lives praying for the soles of others.

And finally:

I guess these are shoes?  I don’t know.  Where did they come from, and how did they get so dirty?

My husband thinks I should also talk about my boots.  He doesn’t mean the black Gloria Vanderbilt shoe-boots I bought with a gift certificate 12 years ago.   They look something like this:

except they have crescent-shaped toenail holes in the tops, because I can never find socks, and they are shaped less like footware and more like a pair of venerable potholders.  I like them because they are black.  Also, there are two of them, which matches my feet.

But it turns out my husband meant something he laughingly referred to as my “work boots.”  I don’t know what’s so damn funny about that.  I can’t take a picture of them, because I put them in a bag marked “Salv Army,” and I have to leave them in the back of the car for a few years before I can take them out and wear them again.

But you know what?  I have a problem here.  I bought a pair of shoes.  They are SO CUTE.  They are the cutiest, wootiest shoes you ever saw.  I wear them a lot, and they fit, they’re in season . . . I don’t know.  For some reason, I guess I halfway expect people to burst into applause whenever I walk up in them.  I mean, they have silver wingtip-style toe caps!  But, at the same time, they’re heelless for that carefree spring in your step in the happy, happy springtime!  But they have a nice big elastic band so they don’t fall off!  They are the perfect shoe.  Actually, they slide around a bit, but that is totally my fault, not the shoes’ fault.  My fault.

Just look at these shoes!

No?

Aw hell,  you wouldn’t understand.

So tell me: West and Wewaxation

My parents are semi-retired.  They visit their grown children when they can, and try to combine these trips with very specialized iteneraries.  For instance, they made a tour of exhibitions of the work of their favorite artist, Charles Burchfield

image source

(The title of this particular piece is “Sun Emerging,” but, like most of Burchfield’s work, it ought to be called “Damn!” or “Wowza!” or “Help!”)

And a few years ago, they visited Lost Cove, Tennessee, of Walker Percy fame.  We also got a postcard from a full-scale reproduction of Moses’ tabernacle, which the Mennonites built in Lancaster, PA, for some reason.

My parents take pictures at various glitzy tourist traps:

and their photo albums on Facebook have titles like:   “Fungus”;  “Lichen”;  “More lichen.  We like lichen.”  My mother’s description of one outing with my father was as follows:

What he didn’t mention was that I was scared for him because his sense of balance was off since the spinal cord tumor, car accidents, and several surgeries, and I didn’t think the narrow edges of cliffs and stone bridges with no handrails were a good place for him to be. I even had to bargain with him to get him to agree to use one of the tree branches I found for a walking stick. At age 66! You can’t tell a man anything. I kept thinking, between Hail Marys, “I’ll have to arrange to have his body shipped back home, and then drive back from Tennessee all by myself–and the car key was locked in the trunk!

Ahh, west and wewaxation at wast.  I don’t know if this is how they pictured their retirement (or even whether they expected to have one at all).

My husband and I are anticipating something more like this

 

photo source

for our own retirement.  There is also some talk of living in either a yurt or something made of adobe, but I forget why.  I think we also somehow plan to live in Greece or the outskirts of Rome, and one of us is going to have to learn how to play the guitar finally, or at least the harmonica.  It will sound good to us, despite our age and palsy, because we will be pretty drunk.

So tell me:  what are your retirement plans?  If you could do anything at all, I mean?  Or, if you are already retired, is it working out the way you hoped?

7 Quick Takes: “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” Edition

Many mothers of big families are at a loss for words when strangers make personal comments about their family size.  Other women are able to use their conspicuous presence in public as a chance to witness to the joy of this lifestyle.   Still others see it as an opportunity to ditch one or two of the slower kids in the crowd.

No matter which description fits you, there will come a day when you are urging an unruly string of children down the narrow hall of the hospital, where you are late for an appointment to have the blood of several of them painfully tested for something you know perfectly well they don’t have.   Some of them will be licking the walls, one will be wailing about losing her vending machine puppy in the parking lot, and two will merely be going silently boneless.

It is at moments like these when some sweaty bozo in an AC/DC T-shirt will appear, plaster himself comically to the wall to let you pass, and remark, “Haw haw haw, looks like someone don’t have a TV!”

 

(photo source)

So the following guide is for you, mom.  If one of your damn wiener kids hasn’t shoved a fig newton into the printer, feel free to make a copy, laminate it, and keep it in your ludicrously enormous purse.  It will help you respond to people who see your presence as a challenge, when really all you want to do is mail a letter, buy some diapers and few pregnancy tests, or pay the librarian for the books you ruined this week, and go home.

7 Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions About Your Big Family

 

–1–

Boy, you’ve got your hands full, don’t you?

Congratulations!  As the ten billionth person to make this clever remark, you are a winner!  As your prize, please accept this delicious baby.

–2–

Don’t you know what causes that?

Yes, it’s brought on by being in the presence of morons.  Every time I leave the house, I feel the urge to rush home to my husband and, for the sake of future generations, try to outnumber people like you.  Whoopee!

–3–

Are those all your kids?

Quiet, you fool, my husband’s listening!

–4–

How many kids do you have, anyway?

I dunno.    [I don’t know if it qualifies as snappy, but it’s often true, and it shuts people up.]

–5–

You’re stopping now, right?

Of course!  Lots of people have eight kids.   Eight kids is nothing.  Of course, our van is longer than most people’s driveways.  We own two milch cows just to supplement breakfast.  And with the money from our Additional Child Tax Credit, we bought a Learjet.  That’s life with eight kids.

But to consider having nine kids?  That would be cuh-razy.

–6–

[This next one is for kids who are members of big families.  It’s a direct quote from lunch recess at Disnard Elementary School, and partially explains why no one liked me in sixth grade.]

Hey, huh huh huh, you have seven brothers and sisters?  Boy, huh huh huh, your parents must really like to dooo it!

Yeah, boy, I guess that proves they had sex eight times.  And you’re an only child, so I guess your parents just don’t love each other very much.  Ha ha!  Now, who wants to be my lunch buddy?

–7–

Don’t you have a TV?

If you think TV is better than sex, then you are doing it wrong.

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So long until Monday, folks! Don’t forget to check out Conversion Diary for links to everyone else’s Seven Quick Takes.  And don’t forget the most basic rule of appearing in public with lots of children:  it’s everyone else’s job to get out of your way.

Excuses, excuses

We just discovered a new family game!  My 12-year-old daughter, who taught it to us, scornfully insists that it’s actually called “Excuses,” and not (sneer) “Excuses, Excuses,” but I think it’s funnier my way, and anyway, who is she?  Does she have a blog?   Oh, well, actually, she does.  But we are good parents, and don’t let anyone look at it.  Ha ha!

Anyway, we’ve been playing this new game in the evening after supper, when it’s too darn hot to be inside, but no one wants to fish the football out of the bushes.  It’s good for ages 6 to adult, I would say, and it’s very easy to drop in and out of.  It’s also entertaining to watch, if you can’t, won’t, or are too fat to play.

The basic set-up is this:  one person is the boss, one person is the employee who is late for work, and one person is the co-worker.  The boss faces the employee, and the co-worker stands behind the boss, so the employee can see him, but the boss cannot.

The boss barks at the employee, “Why were you late?”  The employee starts to make his excuses — but he has to describe what the co-worker is miming.  Remember, the boss can’t see him.

So the co-worker is marching, dancing, swatting imaginary flies, being strangled, fighting invisible gorillas, etc., and the employee is narrating it.

Then the boss, at any point he wants to, whips his head around to and yells at the co-worker, “What are you doing?”  And the co-worker has to instantly come up with a plausible explanation for whatever he was caught doing.  If he was acting out “killing a bear with my teeth,” for instance, he might say, “Oh, I was just eating one of these crullers.  Thanks for the crullers, boss!”

If the boss likes the excuse, he says, “Okay,” and the game resumes.  But if he doesn’t, he says, “You’re fired!” and the next person gets to be the co-worker.

Did I explain that right?  It’s seriously a lot of fun, and I’m so happy to know it, because if we had to play Simon Says one more time, Simon was going to say–

Well, I gave it a whole hour and a half, and even Googled “go play in traffic,” but I didn’t get to the end of that joke.  Sorry, folks.  Refunds at the door.