Saturday, October 29, 2005

Having a war on war

To my utter horror, I find that I have a tendency of stating the obvious time and time again.

I’m the person who, when asked what I think something is, will read the printed words on the package aloud as if others hadn’t thought to do just that.

“Gee, thanks.”

But my flair for the obvious has made me wonder whether why seemingly fundamental things are not as evident as some of us consider them to be. Such is the notion that we live in a violent society.

We bemoan the advent of video games and movies that progress in their depictions of blood and gore with each passing year, and yet we use the words of battle in a celebratory way to deal with anything that causes us grief.

The War on Drugs, The War on Crime, The War on Terrorism, The War on Poverty: Seeing a trend yet?

It seems that we can only get a handle on our lives by beating the proverbial life out of our problems.

But when have we ever won, or for that matter gained ANY ground, in these battles against what ails society? It seems the only war we have any hope of winning is the war on literacy. Illiteracy, after all, seems to be advancing quite nicely.

Now the good president has declared a War on Avian Flu.

As soon as the words were spoken, I shuddered. If this is how we’re going to deal with a pandemic, I fear things do not bode well for the health of our beloved citizens. (Ok maybe the BELOVED will be okay, but the rest of us saps are going to be hurting.)

Perhaps they’re just trying to get their ducks in a row, but I wonder in this new war where will we deploy troops? Where are the embassies that have to be pulled? What types of ammunition will be dispensed and to whom?

I struggled to find the humor that must be hiding in their voices as I listen to talking heads say that the reason we don’t have vaccine manufacturers in this country is that the liability is too high. I translate their words to mean that, in all actuality, the profits are too low.

Does anyone really believe that we are a country of entrepreneurs who are afraid to take risks?

One need only look toward car manufacturers to see the method to the madness. They ratio cost averages — the cost of lawsuits versus the costs of a recall — to determine whether or not to let consumers know that a defective component in hundreds of thousands of vehicles needs to be replaced.

There’s a lot wrong with the world, and while I don’t presume to know the answers I’m certainly tired of the spin.

I’m leary of the swagger and the bravado, which makes it seem that we are being handed more public relations than public service.

I would like to think that the potential worldwide devastation of avian flu is never realized.

However, I think the country and its people deserve more than such a brash and flashy pseudo solution as “take personal responsibility.” This seems tantamount to doing nothing more than hoping the person with whom you’re shaking hands washed them first.

Perhaps it’s time we declared war on wars.

We don’t need another fear-based war we can’t win. We all know what “mission accomplished” has meant thus far, and it’s of no comfort.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

This is why we can't have nice things

This is why we can't have nice things ...
This is why we can’t have nice things

I almost got out the door unscathed this time.

Two steps from the threshold and out bounds the dog through the dog door and up the stairs in my direction. All 75 pounds of her, a scampering mass of wiry hair and canine courage — to my delight, and sometimes consternation — she seems younger than her quickly advancing 10th year.

Before I can say ‘down,’ her paws are upon me, leaving behind perfect mud prints, a gift from the yard where she’s been digging.

I haven’t been able to leave the house without some form of dishevelment for a decade now.

Whether it be pet hair, paw prints, strawberry jam or coffee stains, it’s a foregone conclusion that /good /clothes in my closet are a magnet for catastrophe.

She sits down and wags her tail oblivious to my discontent, and I pat her head knowing the damage is done.

“OH! Why do you have to be such a DOG,” I growl as I race to the sink and try to undo the damage. “She THIS is why we can’t have nice things.”

In truth, however, I laugh at her antics, and wonder if she has any true dog-sense.

When she was a puppy, she had an uncanny knack for getting into all kinds of trouble I had previously thought would require opposable thumbs: opening doors with knobs and stealing fresh-baked goods from the stovetop without a sound, not even the tinkle of dog tags or the click of toenails.

Doting dog owner that I am, I even gave her an old pair of sneakers to chew to bits, kicking myself the whole time knowing I’d just given her the green light to chomp shoes. To my surprise, she stayed away. She seemed to know the difference between “hers” and “not hers.”

Of course there’s an occasional temptation that’s just too great to ignore.

Baby toys are in that category.

I had envisioned finding kidlet toys scattered all over the dog yard, when we first started bringing them home from the toy stores in anticipation of the impending arrival. I thought, if nothing else, a playpen would be as good a toy box as any other, and would be a good preventative for the resident thief.

But even here, she surprised me with her uncanny ability to know certain things were just off limits. We lowered our guard and put off picking up the disarray of playtime.

So it was somewhat shocking to find ittybit’s Fisher Price horse ripped to jagged shreds on the living room carpet. A no-no, we thought she knew better.

‘Oh! Why must you be such a DOG,’ I rant as the scoundrel sits and watches me collect the evidence, her tail wagging away.

This is the second Little People toy is as many days that has become a canine casualty, and one of dewdrop’s favorites.

“I’m sorry, boo,” I coo as the little dewdrop toddles over to look at her newly decapitated toy. “The dog made a mistake.”

She just looked up at me shrugged her shoulders, petting the suspect gently between the ears. … “Oh well.”

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Toodle toddler

NOW it's time for BED

Every journey is an adventure these days. Even a trip to the mailbox — a solid 50-yard stroll from our front door — is filled with all manner of enchantment.

Of course with a toddler in tow, every step is also a stop. Every rock must be handled and inspected; each cat that saunters out from the neighbors’ yards is greeted and hugged, and all variety of things, from bits of grass to specs of dust, are scrutinized with a scientists’ attention to detail.

As ittybit squirms to get down, a somewhat welcome event now that she weighs more than two sacks of groceries, I can pretty much guess the task at hand will take three times as long and will likely include my needing to rearrange shelves and other assemblages to their condition prior to our arrival.

I suppose I was prepared for this day and all the days to come when she will push my hand away in a loud protest of pint-sized independence.

From grocery shopping to gardening, with a toddler tagging along it has become painfully obvious that my little peapod is becoming a do-it-herself-er.

Well almost. It’s actually more similar to the Bob Villa-style of DIY … I often refer to it as a “Do-It-YOURself-er.” Behind the scenes you know this guy’s got carpenters, set dressers and other folks who do the real work while he makes the final cuts for the camera. Similarly, our toddler has a whole cast and crew at the ready to do her bidding: from Mama and Daddy to Ama and Papa, and even ‘Yaya’ her babysitter — she’s got a plan and we’re holding it up.

Our little kumquat approaches playtime pretty much the same way a contractor approaches a job site filled with subcontractors.

I picture my little squash blossom donning a yellow hardhat and a clipboard in hand as she points to the crayons before exclaiming, “HELP ME!”

We are patient as we try to get her to finish the task she started. Reassuring ourselves at the same time that, ‘Yes, she can roll clumps of play dough into balls, fit that puzzle piece into the slot and take the lid off the teapot.’

Most people would probably be elated if their children shunned finger paint, not wanting to get their hands messy. But then, how many toddler artists have assistants willing to paint by proxy?

But there we are, coaxing what would otherwise seem counter intuitive — messiness in an effort to make the bath more than just a bedtime ritual.

‘No, No! Mama.” … she directed from my lap as I dip my finger in the tub of green goo at a recent birthday party for her newly two-year-old friend. “Blue!”

I wipe off the green from my fingers and reach for the blue, while her hands stay neat and clean.

It would seem we’ve got a long way to go.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Combing through memory

Sipping coffee with our babysitter as my kidlet gets down to the work of play, I hear my future — and a little bit of my past — playing on her answering machine.

“This is the school nurse. … It’s not an emergency, but I just want to let you know that your daughter’s in the office and will need to be picked up. … It seems she’s gotten a comb stuck in her hair and, well, we just can’t get it out. I think she’s going to need a hairdresser.”

It’s that time of year again: school pictures. The season when your intellect sits back and laughs while impulse takes over. Compelling you to try a curl in your poker-straight hair with a flimsy comb and some stiff gel.

It can make just about any kid go a little crazy.

Oh sure, my little ittybit doesn’t have enough hair to get caught in a barrette yet, let alone one of those flimsy combs handed out like business cards by traveling cameramen, but she comes from a long line of precocious dimwits who will try just about anything to get the right look. Even when the look is just wrong.

My husband, after all, ventured into the cold climes of Minnesota, transferring in his high school freshman year from the preppy northeast, wearing his ‘Miami Vice’ garb — an outfit so out of place among his heavy-metal, black t-shirted peers that he still hasn’t completely recovered. Nor, for that matter, has he been willing to get rid of the signature white blazer, which would undoubtedly produce an Incredible Hulk effect were he to try it on today.

When I was in kindergarten, my mother tells me, I stood at her dresser mirror for nearly an hour practicing my smile.

As strange as that may have seemed to her, I knew exactly how I wanted to look for my first school photograph. Dressed in my favorite brown plaid jumper, hair parted on the side, I practiced my “sweet” smile until I knew it by rote.

After all, I didn’t want to be caught off guard, letting my mischievous grin or my crooked smirk to accidentally creep into the frame.

Of course, I didn’t take into account the possibility that the pictures would come back mid blink.

Suffice it to say the next 12 photos sessions did nothing to graduate my styling abilities. … My dos were all don’ts — a self-styled shag haircut, the Dorothy Hammel, the Farrah Fawcett, a bad perm (thank-you Flash Dance) — and I committed every fashion faux pas one can imagine, from acid-wash jeans to camouflage coveralls.

It’s inevitable. The idea of having an image that will hang around to haunt you for years to come is temptation enough to put on your best face even if it’s not really yours.

I can’t imagine what my sugar pie’s penchant for fashion misfortunes will be as I watch her playing with blocks on the floor, but I know she’s got some stiff competition.