Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Visit to the Dentist

Just got my teeth cleaned, polished, and flossed for a reasonable 300 pesos ($24), a short walk from the back of our house, out to the busy street of Canal.  En route home I picked up a stack of tortillas about 2 inches thick (80 cents), hot in their brown paper wrapper.  Walked through San Antonio where I bought a torta with carnitas (roast pork), pickled onions, and salsa, and ran into all the school kids from Nuevo Fuego walking home, still bundled in their uniform dark green, v-neck sweaters and plaid pants or two-piece heavy green gym suit.  It's about 85 degrees outside but Mexican kids never seem to feel the heat.  Last month I got a mammogram at the local hospital ($50) then walked back through some rugged fields with paths cut through them by the wood vendors and their donkeys.  Picked up a couple of prints  at the frame shop, bought a huge bag of limes for margarita juice, and purchased a large, whole chicken from the local polleria.  Another day, no car, no clouds, not a care in the world.

Walking Home from " 'Night, Mother"

Last week Sam and I saw a fabulous play at the biblioteca, 'Night, Mother, by Marsha Norman, directed by our friend Taylor Korobow.  It was so moving I couldn't really speak after it was over.  Her partner, Joseph Kent, who produced and staged it, was also crying, "even though I've seen it in rehearsal for five and a half weeks," he said.  So with a little cucumber sandwich in hand, Sam and I left, walking out the side door and up Relox towards the jardin.  It was around 10pm and very few people were out.  Yet the corn vendors were lined up along the east side of the park, the steam rising out of their carts in tandem.  Strings of  white lights encircled the laurel trees in the center of the jardin, all lit up bright like palm trees at a beach.  Then the mariachis, troops of them each in their own groups' costumes, started taking turns playing.  A 12-piece group in royal blue with silver buttons struck up first, serenading the empty jardin loudly and enthusiastically.  Truly beautiful. Then another group started when they were finished, one of their members making his way up Cuna de Allende in his mariachi pants, and a grey sweatshirt.  He looked a bit like he'd been kicked out, and was on his way back to plead for re-admission.  We listened for a while, then strolled downhill to La Aldea, talking about the amazing performance of the mother in this play, who spends the evening with her grown daughter, trying to talk her out of committing suicide in an hour's time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Still Pondering

JORIE: All this talk about surviving natural disasters and other hardships has made me feel the need to maintain mental acuity.  Have no idea how to do sodoku and am not very good at crossword puzzles.  In fact, everyone in the family, even Leah, can beat me at Scrabble (which pisses me off since I'm the reader in the family).  I have been taking fish oil but haven't noticed a difference.  Any other ideas?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Three Mothers Ponder Their Strengths

Or How the Tiger Mom Got Us Thinking About What We Can Handle in This Life

JORIE: Am reading a book right now - Why We Suck - by Denis Leary who thanks Lydia Wills in his acknowledgments "for her support and finely tuned interest."  Must be our Lydia...

Fan- what's the temp in Mexico right now?  We had a school delay yesterday because of cold - kind of absurd but I guess they didn't think the buses would start (?).  Looking to be dumped on again tomorrow night.  We're actually tired of snow days now.   Leah spent the last one practicing tricks with household objects from a TVshow she likes "Minute to Win it."  I was reading a review of that book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and looked up to see her balancing dice on the end of a popsicle held in her mouth.  Hmmm, maybe the Tiger Mother is on to something ...

ANN: I think you've managed to create a clever, self-starting creative child without the benefit of love deprivation, beatings, humiliation and more.  So be very proud of yourself!  I think it's amazing.  When you asked about the temperature I was sure you were about to say that you were coming down here if it were at all warmer than Connecticut. I don't even want to tell you that it's 75-80 with no humidity and not a cloud in the sky.  I seriously have not seen a cloud since late August.  It has been amazing, even by Mexican standards.

We are living in our friends' house.  It's actually kind of fun.  Their place is right in the middle of town--everything is right outside your doorstep (including the city bus which I am sure is going to take out one of the kids one day as the street is only about 6 inches wider than the bus).  But all the shops, the library, the little snack stores, butchers, roast pork stands, taco stands, etc are only a block away.  So we're actually having a fun time.  Still no phone or internet but actually the house manager is going to try to get us some computer access tomorrow so maybe I'll be connected.  Right now we're at our friends' house horsing around.

JORIE: Fan - do you even miss seasons?  Or are they completely overrated?  Is the allure of 4 seasons just an urban myth to keep us northeasterners from heading south?

The tiger cubs go to Hopkins which tells you something about Will's school- they and their mother are probably not even much of an anomoly there (can't believe I can't spell that word) .  I asked him if he knew Sophia, the older one.  He said, "That girl?  She's an annoying, overachieving b***."  She was in his AP calculus class as a junior.  (Although, I've been wanting to ask him what's so terrible about overachieving?)  A friend's daughter knows the younger one who apparently hates her mother.  So there you go, I guess we're doing OK.  Back to blowing ping pong balls across the room.

The tiger cubs live in Milford?  I have only heard of them this week--a story.  Maybe the outrage has been circulating for a while. I'm glad to hear the younger one hates her mother.  Gives us some validation that our methods aren't so bad.
I have to say that I don't miss seasons at all.  You kind of feel that you get at least two every day. Mornings are very cool--you need a sweater or a layer or two.  It was 40 this morning on our car thermometer.  but by lunchtime it's warm and late afternoon it's not.  Then evening is cool again so when you go out to eat you need a shawl or something. I'm become very enamored of my wrap, something I've never used in my life.

MOLLY: Hi guys!  sorry I am late to the party...

Four seasons, pah!  I love the idea of 70-80, flowers year ‘round and not having to wash snow suits and the tiny accoutrements that go with them!

Jor, am I right in thinking that “tiger-mom” (who has become a recurring joke in my household) lives in your town?  No surprise that at least one of them hates her mother – I do too!  Hopkins sounds like a very intense, not-so-fun place these days, so Will is so much better off all the way around.  And if Lydia is that close to Denis Leary I guess I am jealous – I kinda find him attractive.

Okay – I’m going to go out and put stakes along the driveway so the snow-plow guys stops scraping up half the lawn – but hey, I love seeing that cleared path so I can get these Xbox addicts out of my HOUSE!!!!!!

JORIE: OMG!  Just got another 12-15 inches of the white stuff!  My younger 2 have to make up these days - they are going to be in school until July. 

The tiger cubs live in New Haven.  The parents are professors at the Yale Law School - a career  I wish I had known about since it seems to give you plenty of time to harangue, schlep, and write daily 3-page music practice instructions for your children.  Will actually did like Hopkins although not so much the grade-grubbing, competitive faction of which there were quite a few.  The school sent 23 kids out of 120 to the Ivy League last year - and that was actually a down year for them. 

Fan - Mexico is so tempting.  Let me know what you think airfare might be - we are so poor!  These private school tuitions ($52,000 a year for college not to mention the other 3) are killing us.  And no one seems to think we qualify for aid.  But if I'm the only going, perhaps it could be done.  've got to get Chris on board.  He's convinced traveling to Mexico is dangerous.  (This from the man who thought it would be OK to let two 16-year-old girls drive one hour on I-95 to Mohegan Sun (casino) on a Saturday night to see a comedian.  Megan is afraid to drive on the highway so that leaves her friend who has had several traffic violations (including a hit and run) behind the wheel.  And on a weekend we are out of town.  Just leaving Megan alone for 2 nights is a huge  leap for me.  I told him if anything happens to me, my sisters are in charge of the kids not him.  Please save this email so it will be in writing.)

I'm not real familiar with Dennis Leary's work but he's an actor and I guess a comedian too.  I picked up his book from the sale rack at Barnes and Noble.  I'm not sure if Lydia is his love interest - he seems happily married - probably his editor?

Grace turns 13 today.  Chris and I are outnumbered by teenagers now.  Fortunately she hasn't gone over to the dark side yet.

ANN: Holy smokes.  That tuition stuff is an absolute killer.  We have already told our boys that they are not going to college.  They can take courses on line.  They actually seem to be very excited about the idea, as they are still under the impression, at this age, that it will be great fun never to leave home.  Redding keeps begging us to homeschool him.  Good for Sam, but I would kill them all.  He isn't learning enough at school here so he wants to get all his knowledge from his dad.  How very cute.  We have spent some time looking into something called K12 Academy, an online based homeschooling program.  We met some folks in a very small town about 45 minutes from here who run a B&B/store and use the program for their three kids.  They really like it.  Sam's not into the Calvert curriculum so that's out.  There's talk of an international baccalaurate school coming here in the fall of 2012 but we'll see about that.  Someone says they have the land and are starting to put up some construction so who knows.

I'm with you, Jor, 100%, about Chris's misguided judgment.  I would find letting my 16-year-old go to a casino a lot more rattling than coming here.  Tell him we're here, with our 3 youngsters, whom we would yank back to the States immediately if we thought there was a safety factor. I do know of all the horror stories at the border, and sadly they're all true.  But we're 10 hours south--a world away!  

MOLLY: I love the idea of home schooling as long as someone else does it – a private tutor would have been less $$ than tuition.  Tiger Mom may be available now that hers are grown.  Allow for a brief adjustment period.

Thunder snow is when the storm is so intense there is thunder & lightning.  And it is awful.  Charlie (Who did not take my suggestion he come home at 4pm or that he take Charles Street – sorry, I have kept that inside so long it HAD to come out) was stuck in one spot on the JFX for...Six. And a half. HOURS!  He had his I-phone so we were talking throughout, but we drank a bottle of wine when he finally got home.  At midnight thirty.

I hate this snow.  It is destroying all of the trees.  The girls, however, had a ball sledding ‘til 1:00 am– they are still asleep.  Good luck getting them to bed at a normal time tonight, right?

ANN: How did Charlie survive the JFK for 6.5 hours????   He too needs to come here. Could you all possibly leave the girls with your mom (or his dad) and just come down here to visit?  It would be Rock Hall all over again, times 10 because we would have no kids to take care of. He must have been totally bummiing on the highway.  But the wine must have tasted especially good. 

JORIE: Just got back from skiing in VT with the idea that if you can't beat 'em join 'em.  It's not like anyone has homework or anything to do.  Charlie's JFX experience astounds me because I'm not sure I could actually survive such an ordeal (or my Dad's - but he was only stuck for 4 1/2 hours).   I think I would start self-mutilating.  I try to be tough but I think I would actually crumble quickly in case of a natural disaster, kidnapping by terrorists, solitary confinement, etc....  Is it weird that I think of these things?

ANN:  I think I could handle solitary confinement (I've thought about this before and figure I would just do a lot of sit ups and really tone my body) but not sleep deprivation or starvation.  Starvation would do me in in less than 2 days.  I've also wondered if I would cut my arm off with a pocketknife if I had to and I think I would.

I can't believe Charlie got stuck on the JFX all night.  That sounds god awful, like those people on Jet Blue stranded on the runway for 8 hours, but colder.  Were people abandoning their cars and walking along the highway to get home?  Best bottle of wine he ever had I bet. 

MOLLY:  You guys are much tougher than me – I lose it if they cut off cable.   I would prefer solitary over being in a general prison population.  Sleep deprivation/starvation pretty much describes the last three months, but when it comes to torture all they would have to do is show me the instruments and I would give up my whole family.

The idea of cutting off my own arm actually seems less horrific because their is no cruelty involved and you are making a choice – you’re still in control.  But it would take at least 187 hours to get me there!!!  What about that guy who was cleaning his furnace and had to do that – not nearly as romantic as being stuck in the wilds of Utah!

Charlie survived by playing on his Iphone _ “Angry Birds” but he had to pee in a cup.

Getting ready for round 5, Jor?!!  Oh Ann – we are so jealous of you!!!!

JORIE: I can't believe we have more storms coming.   Enough already!  I've always loved snow days but now they are talking about canceling the kids' April vacation - when I was going to get down to see my family and try and get Megan to look at colleges.  Snow late tonight and all through tomorrow turning to freezing rain.  If the roof collapses or we lose power I may have an actual survival situation on my hand. 

Here are the things I require on a daily basis (at least once and often more):  toothpaste, coffee, hot shower/blowdryer, wine.  I don't think you get any of these in solitary or on the side of the JFX.  Also not good at starvation, sleep deprivation, and self-amputation.  I do think I would be good in a situation that required a lot of walking - as long as I had proper footwear and it wasn't too cold but I'm not sure what that prepares me for.   Trying to think of my other survival skills but not coming up with much.

 MOLLY:  I just picked Kate up in time to miss phase 2 of our ice storm.  I could hear the little pellets hitting just as I pulled in.  Another Snow Day?  What colleges were you guys hoping to see in April?  It would stink to lose that time.  We’re going in March.  Ann – the on-line college courses sound so good to me right now!

I could do a major walk with adequate footwear too, but I think the whole “good shoes” thing is generally frowned upon by the average death march guard – I believe the ague is also a hazard, but I’ve always considered tropical fever to be one of the more attractive ways to die, so all things considered I’m with you, Jor.   A Siberian gulag would do me in straight away – I hate the cold. This winter has confirmed this for me.  What capacity do you guys think you’d have to endure forced labor?   

Gonna go squeeze the last drops out of my box-o-wine.
ANN:  Can you all really be getting another foot of snow?  Who's in charge?  Why the nasty winter this year?

I was thinking about Jorie's skills.  If you're lost in the woods, or in the desert, you have to be able to walk great distances to get help.  I think you're set there. All those jogs from Falls Road to Elkridge could pay off in the event of future dementia or confusion.  What if one day you just wander off?

I want to know more about the furnace episode.  How did I miss a good case of forced mutiliation?

Gulag, definitely out.  I hate all manual labor I've decided.  I really can't stand the feel of dust, dirt or dryness on my hands.  Even working in a mental hospital in college I always felt dirty.  So?  Tropical diseases, except the ones where you die from diarrhea and dehydration, sound good, second only to carbon monoxide poisoning.

We're staying at a friend's house for 3 weeks (I told Jorie this already--maybe not you,Molly, but we're here because we rented out our place to some vacationers).  And it's right next door to a restaurant.  Like everything here you share common walls, townhouse-style, on both sides.  Both of our courtyards are completely open to the sky so I can hear guitar music and mariachis all night tonight.  Now the party is starting to liven up and folks are singing along.  If I hadn't had two margaritas at lunch (celebrating a friend's negative pregnancy test) I might crawl over the balcony and shimmy down into the restaurant in my pjs.
JORIE:  Well - the freezing rain is finding its way into my kitchen.  All the gutters/roof seams are clogged with snow and ice and I've got a couple leaks going.   Cross your fingers that's the worst of it.  Kids are home again today.  Never got much snow yesterday but there's a nice shiny layer on top of everything. 
I'm convinced that I want to do my death march, manual labor somewhere near Ann lives which sounds like the perfect climate.  Too many bugs, parasites in the tropics, and, as discussed, can't handle the cold.  I think the last 19 years of my life have actually prepared me well for manual labor.  As long as they feed me - otherwise I would get lightheaded and be quickly eliminated.
All this forced togetherness has made me realize we would not be good candidates for the homeschooling thing.  Everyone's been getting along pretty well but we're craving other people.  Have you ever reread the Little House books as an adult?  A completely different perspective.  What seemed exciting as a kid seems like hell on earth to an adult - ie brutal winters, months without seeing another soul, eating hay to ward off starvation.  Kind of like what we've been discussing.
Molly - we were going to check out soem southern schools on our April vacation.  Particularly UVa, maybe Duke or UNC.  Any other ideas?  I actually don't think the whole Southern thing would be a good fit for Megan (she's kind of too eclectic) but I want her to at least see Virginia.  What are your plans with Kate?  Megan is having a hard time wrapping her head around the whole college thing.  Me too.
Love your description of living next to the restaurant, Fan.  We're serenaded by snow plows these days.  Although I have Grace practicing her guitar in the next room right now.  Guess that's the closest I'm going to get.  Mol - did the furnace guy actually do the deed or was he just on the verge of?

JORIE:  Do you know there's a movie out right now - 127 hours - about a hiker who gets trapped by a rockslide and his arm is caught between rocks ( I think that's the gist) for - I guess 127 hours?  Sounds like a date night! 

ANN: That's the guy we were talking about--the one in Utah who had to chop off his arm to survive. Can't really imagine a full-length feature film.  He was alone the whole time.  Lots of voiceovers and inner thoughts I guess.  I just want to watch the slow sawing.

JORIE:  James Franco, the actor portraying the hiker, is up for an Oscar, so I guess it has to be halfway decent.  Now google "man caught in furnace."  I had forgotten that this was a Connecticut story.

ANN: Just read the story of the furnace guy.  After a while, you really don't have any choice, do you?  Would you rather live, or cut your arm off?  I'm guessing at a certain point the pain is moot because you're in such a state of shock anyway.  Perhaps I'm just trying to comfort myself.

I'm thinking of a book we could write, titled: Besides Motherhood, What Else Could You Survive?  Modern Moms Ponder Their Strengths.
JORIE:  Maybe a chapter or 2 on survival techniques.  Like for the moment in the ice storm when I couldn't get my corkscrew to work (another reason to stick with the box).  Like how far would you go to open that last bottle of wine.  Fortunately I found another working corkscrew, but I did feel a little panicky for a full 5 min.  For future reference or hikes through the wild, any ideas besides breaking the bottle with a hammer'/rock and taking the chance of drinking broken glass?

MOLLY: Between furnace guy & tiger mom, Connecticut have a very news-rich environment for such a small state!  Way to go!  I think “Mothers Ponder Their Strengths” would be hilarious and perhaps inspiring – or just hilarious.

How dangerous IS drinking broken glass?  How big do the shards have to be to be life threatening, especially when considering the cost/benefit analysis?  But I do think that boxed wine would be the way to go in the wild.

Here is another wine conundrum:  I opened a very good and rather $$$ bottle of wine the other night.  I poured it into a decanter, turned to get the glasses out and when I went to pour – there was a f*@k!n& STINK BUG paddling around.  He completely screwed up the wine.  Though I did consider very hard the idea of drinking it anyway, my guest warned that it would not be worth the risk that there might be a mild toxin involved - not deadly but migrain producing.  I can’t believe these things are surviving this winter!!  Would you have had it anyway or poured it sadly down the drain?  Chapter 3 in Mothers Ponder Strengths”– Eating Parasites/Insects.

ANN:  For the record I would never have poured it down the drain.  Not in a minute.  You flick, and pour.  There's absolutely nothing you could be harmed by with a single bug in your drink.  Even if it were large.  The shit they eat down here, man.  You realize nothing will kill you.

But, Jorie, when in doubt, yes, you have to break the bottle.  What's the alternative?  Not having any wine?  Not an option. Maybe you need to travel with a fine mesh strainer. Something collapsible that fits in the glove compartment, or your back pocket. Anything that might seep through can't hurt you.  Just like the bug.   Speaking of cost/benefit analyis, whose to say the WINE doesn't produce the migraine, and not the stink bug (though I have to confess I don't know what a sting bug is so perhaps I'm speaking out of my ass).  And a wine-induced migraine is always worth the risk....

MOLLY: Wait – Ann have you not heard about stink bugs from your family?  I have no problem with bugs of most sizes but the problem is that these critters emit a very strong odor and they are EVERYWHERE in huge numbers.  Jor – do you guys have them up there yet?  Bee, fly, cockroach - Hell yeah!  But the wine was desperately tainted.

ANN: How did he get in?  And did you take a small sip before tossing?  What a crying shame.  (And no, I'm not hip to the stinky guy.)
JORIE:  I have to say, my first reaction would have been to make sure my guests (and husband) weren't looking and pick that thing out.  I am also not familiar with stink bugs and their toxins but it can't be much worse than the worm in the tequila and I've swallowed that.  (Ann, I'm thinking you were with me.  Some bar with "surf" in the name in NYC?)

I definitely agree that the wine bottle must be broken.  I'd be willing to lick it up off the counter.  Maybe not the floor though.  (Did you read the part about the furnace guy drinking water off the basement floor?  I'm not sure which I'd do first - saw off my arm or drink off a basement floor). 

JORIE: to her sisters: Settle a bet:  if a stinkbug flew (crawled?) into a decantered bottle of good expensive wine, would you drink it or throw it away?  Your choices are that or drinking water off a basement floor.

JORIE'S SISTER, ALSO A MOLLY:  Stinkbugs fall under "organic". Go for it.

THOR ORIGINAL MOLLY:  Okay, so you would not drink water off a basement floor, but a stinkbug infused glass of wine is doable.  You guys have definitely not heard about stink bugs.  Or, brace yourself because they are heading your way.  Give it  year or two and then we’ll talk.  You know how much I love my wine and how little regard I  have for niceties - floor water for me – no question, that’s how bad these bugs are.  At least the tequila worm has a certain street cred.  Good for you Jor!  Dabney & I split a worm once with Artie Jenkins & Lou Dubose and some other people.  The actual splitting was the worst part.

JORIE: Ok, Mol, so we've given you a little flak about throwing the stinkbugged wine away, but biting the worm in half (quarters?) restores my faith in your survival qualities. 

Now here's another question.  In the last month or so, these are some of the things I've done:  locked my keys in the car twice, somehow lost my car key from my key chain (Chris is on the verge of not taking my calls), left my credit card at Costco, left my wallet at Costco, spent 20 min. searching the Stop and Shop parking lot for $40 which I later found in my purse, gave Megan the wrong dose of antibiotic, and swerved into a snowbank and lost my hubcap ( i admit i was texting - don't tell my kids).  Am I premenopausal or just drinking too much wine?  And how much is too much?  Don't worry I haven't taken to daytime drinking, just wondering if I am killing off the few brain cells I have left.