Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Whoreticulture Friday! Issue 4

Whoreticulture: The industry and science of whores and whore-related topics. Whoreticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of OB-GYNery, Brazilian waxers and shavers, adultery, personal hygeine mavens and easy women. The word is composite, from two words, whore, from Greek meaning "harlot" or "dear", and the word culture. Like NPR's Science Friday, Whoreticulture Friday exists to educate and spark discussion on the science of Whorology. Whoreticulture Friday is not for children. Or squeamish people. Or Mother-In-Laws.

Today's topic: A Tale of Two Penises

While there are many penis stories out there in the world, there are two tall tails in particular that need to be addressed: The Wedding Crasher, and The Magnum.

Current Husband and I were blissfully married on a lovely August day fourteen years ago. Between my sorority, his fraternity, and our respective high school friends, we were well aware things could get out of hand quickly at the reception. We considered this to be alarming, since a large contingent of Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists and Mennonites would be attending as well, so I decided a few people needed to be addressed prior to the ceremony.

One friend of CH was notorious for having his picture taken with his rather large, flaccid member poking out of his fly. He generally tried to get these pictures taken at sorority house parties, grandparent anniversaries, and bar mitzvahs. I pulled him aside before the wedding and said, "You won't be doing one of your dick pics at my wedding, correct?" And he looked very innocently at me and said, "Julie. This is your special day." And with that, I knew he was going to try.

On a quick side note, our photographer also happened to be the University of Iowa sports photographer, so we got some great action shots, but not much of what we actually asked for. My mom, fearing the worst, put disposable cameras on all of the tables at the reception. To future brides, I say definitely do the disposable cameras, they were a riot, and definitely spend some extra cash on the photographer, because all you have left when it's over is a dress, your photos, and your memories.

At the reception, things seemed to be going well. Mr. Johnson appeared to be under control and having fun, and fortunately my photographer left his camera in the car and was dancing with his wife. Mr. J approached me and said, "Hey, let's get a last picture of us together before you consummate your marriage!" And I thought, "Hey, that's funny, let's!" Snap. The photo was taken, and suddenly, I got it. I looked at him and said, "You aren't going to take a picture with your deal out are you?" and he smirked as he said, "I think I just did." Ish.

Fast forward to my mom in Nebraska, getting the pictures developed. She brings home the envelopes. She opens them. She starts thumbing through them. "Oh, Julie and Grandma," and "CH and his mom, how sweet," and "What the f**k is THAT!?!" One week later, my mom had that photo copied and enlarged (as if it needed it) and was showing it to her friends. Her daughter, the blushing bride in a questionably shaded white dress, and a guy who wasn't the groom, smiling, hand on his hip and his gargantuan appendage saying cheese. Classy.

The next Tall Tail I have to tell is about a member we call "The Magnum."

A while back, a friend of mine in our small town needed me to buy condoms, because she was active but afraid people would talk if they saw her buying birth control. (Take a moment to recognize that she, nor I, seemed to care much what people thought if I bought them. Okay, I was married, so I guess I got a pass, but why wasn't CH buying them?) I decided that instead of getting her stocked for the month, I was going to get her taken care of for a year, so I went to my big-city warehouse store and bought the biggest box of condoms I could find. I presented them to my friend, knowing that I gave the gift that kept on without pregnancy. Hero time

The next week, my friend gave the mega-box of rubbers back to me. I asked her what was wrong with them - Did they break up? No. Are they defective? No. Did he suffer an industrial accident? No. Finally, she could take no more. She was the deepest red I have ever seen on cheeks, and was practically crying. The story could stay inside her soul no longer.

"So we are messing around. And then it's time to wrap it up, so to speak. And he's impressed that I have so many. So he puts it on and BOING! it flies off across the room! Literally springs off of him! We try another one - BOING! Same thing! And he asks me where I got these things, that they are so small they belong in a Cracker Jack box! Where did you get these mini-circus-condoms!?!"

After much persuasion, she realized that these were what normal men wear. But she, the big cat hunter, had found herself a man who needed his gloves in an XL. He needed The Magnum. We drove to the largest city within an hour of us, and bought the much-coveted Magnum size condoms. We didn't speak of that trip, but every time I saw him after that, I pictured Tom Selleck hopping into his Ferrari in Hawaii and saying goodbye to Higgins, because he was Magnum, P.I. And I couldn't look him in the eye without laughing, because I knew his gun was fully loaded.

Happy Whoreticulture Friday, and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Can Brown Do For You?

Laura was surprised to see the dark shape of Sukey, the brown cow, standing at the barnyard gate. Ma went up to the gate, and pushed against it to open it.
"Sukey, get over!" She reached across the gate and slapped Sukey's shoulder.
Just then one of the dancing little bits of light from the lantern jumped between the bars of the gate, and Laura saw long, shaggy black fur, and two little, glittering eyes. Sukey had thin, short, brown fur. Sukey had large, gentle eyes.
Ma said, "Laura, walk back to the house."
Ma ran with her into the house, and slammed the door.
Then Laura said, "Ma, was it a bear?"
"Yes Laura," Ma said. "It was a bear." - Little House in the Big Woods

So maybe that morning the bear got up late and didn't have a chance to wash her hair and she put on a cap, and it was cold in the Big Woods, so she had to put her brown fleece jacket on to stay cozy warm while she strolled around the barn looking for a venti skinny vanilla latte. And then Ma comes outside and starts calling her a cow, saying "Move it, Sukey!" and smacking her on her big bear butt, which she has been a little sensitive about lately after a fall of eating fat, tasty bunnies.

It could happen. I'm just saying maybe we should look at it from the bear's perspective.

This morning I had an early morning "meeting" with a friend of mine who enables my Starbucks addiction, but I am not much of a morning glory, so I pulled on my trusty brown corduroy cap, which is both stylish and fall-like. After surviving 40 winters in the Midwest, one would think I am used to the dipping temperatures at this time of year, but alas, I am a creme puff. (Did someone say Creme Puffs? Drool.) So I pulled on my equally trusty brown fleece jacket and a scarf and headed over to the opium den the world knows as Starbucks. And I did get a skinny vanilla latte. And it was delicious.

After my "very important business meeting" was over, I drove to my local car dealership for a scheduled oil change in my family minivan. Because I rock that minivan. I left the keys in the ignition and Linkin Park turned up in the CD player so that the guy who would be changing my oil would understand that I am a tough mother. Don't even try to upgrade me on unnecessary wiper blades or the most expensive synthetic oil produced. I'm onto you people. Because I listen to Linkin Park. The connection is very clear.

I walk into the service area to check in my van, and there is a lovely little old lady and her daughter in front of me, deep in discussion with the service bay manager. The check-in area is behind a cinder block half wall, so you can only see people from the waist up. I'm peering over the cinder block wall, looking at the various vehicles up in the air and thinking about how fun it would be to stay in the car while they change the oil, drinking coffee and reading my book while the lift raised and lowered, when I hear someone ask me a question.

ME: Smiling in direction of questioner, a guy who works there. "Huh?"
GUY: "Do you need me to sign something?"
ME: Still smiling. "Huh?"
GUY: Walking closer. "Do you need me to sign something?"
ME: Getting confused. "Huh?"
GUY: Walks around cinder block wall, wiping his hands. Gives me a once-over, and he turns red. "Uh, okay, they'll be with you in a minute."
ME: Smiling again. Oblivious. "Okay, thanks!"

I stand there for a minute, take a drink of my coffee, and look down at my brown arm. And then I think about my brown cap. And I realize that he just mistook me for a UPS driver.

So much for stylish and snarky. He thought I was delivering those fancy new fexor valves. (Because it's all about ball bearings these days.) I was not a Hot Momma, as I had envisioned in my cute corduroy/fleece/Linkin Park world. He was coming to see what Brown had done for him. To make myself feel better, this is how I think it was really going down:

(Porn movie base playing - Bow chicka wow wow...)
GUY (Looking like CH or Edge): "Do you need me to sign something?"
ME: "Oh yeah. I have your package. Right. Here."
GUY: "Then let me sign it for you."
ME: Slowly unzip my brown fleece jacket. Unbutton sexy UPS shirt.
(Bow chicka wow wow...)
GUY: "My lift is raising." He grabs a can of Castrol 10w30.
ME: I wink. Unclasp brown UPS bra. Breasts fall out and smack against concrete...SCREECH! Fantasy over, due to aging and gravity. But at least he didn't call me Sukey and smack my hindquarters.

And I guess that's all Brown did for me today. You can bet I will be wearing my stylish gray cap and black fleece tomorrow instead.

This is the last Laura Ingalls Wilder post - thanks for enduring LIW Month, and you can sample a little Linkin Park, "In The End" on the player.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Big Turkey That Couldn't

Almanzo simply ate.

He ate ham and chicken and turkey, and dressing and cranberry jelly; he ate potatoes and gravy, succotash, baked beans and boiled beans and onions, and white bread and rye'n'injun bread, and sweet pickles and jam and preserves. Then he drew a long breath, and he ate pie.

When he began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else. - Farmer Boy

Damn. I'm feelin' you, Manly.

The major difference between the books about Laura's childhood and Farmer Boy, about Almanzo's childhood, is food and stable housing. Laura's story is about moving from log house to sod house to wood house, and Pa's restless nature (and his tendency to kill). Laura's story is full of corncob dolls, riding across the prairie in wagons, blizzards, men nearly dying in wells, grasshopper plagues, illness, lots of cornbread and johnnycakes and Nellie Oleson (I was spelling it wrong - cardinal Little House sin!)

In Farmer Boy, every third page is about food. Salt pork and potatoes and brown ham-gravy and biscuits and homemade ice cream and pancakes and popcorn with real dairy butter and pies...oh Lord, the pies. Almanzo even gets smacked in the eye with a burning potato that shot out of the fire - they get hurt by the food! This I can wrap my muffin top around.

In the spirit of Farmer Boy, on Friday night we had a dinner party. It's actually generous to call it a dinner party, because that would imply it was nice. We put out a bunch of bulk food items and told about 40 people to show up and fill their paper plates while our dog nosed them in the crotch.

We never do things like this because they make me extremely nervous - it's like opening all of your curtains and turning on all the lights at night and changing your clothes. Everyone can see in, you aren't sure who is looking at what, but they can see it all. I can do family on family, but the larger groups seem to require organization I don't possess. We've eaten at so many dinner parties in our community in the past couple of years and not reciprocated, it was time for us to pay our dues.

I thought, "How bad could it be?" which is funny, because it's the same thing I thought before birthing our three children or buying four different special needs houses or opening a retail store or walking in the front door at 3 a.m. when I was a teenager locked out of the house after sneaking out or having How bad can it be? Bad. Real bad.

We told people it was a White Trash party, but mostly just because it was at our house, hosted by us, and we didn't feel like cleaning. We emphasized our stuffed and mounted squirrel (yes, we have one) and put sheets on the furniture and bought disposable dinnerware. Theme fulfilled.

Menu-wise, I thought I couldn't go wrong with a turkey on the grill. A nice 20-pound bird ought to keep people fed, and what goes better with turkey than mashed potatoes? And a creamed corn/cornbread casserole? Oooh, and some cranberry conserve? And asparagus? And then dinner rolls? Super! Except that I got about 2 hours into the preparation of this meal and had a little Come To Jesus moment:

A) I've never grilled a turkey.

B) I've invited nearly 40 people, and have 6 chairs indoors. And it's 40 degrees and rainy outside.

C) My menu was going to ruin everyone's Thanksgiving.

So it seemed like an appropriate time to open the first bottle of wine.

Since I live in 2009, I consulted the Internet. Everything is on the Internet, right? Three different websites told me to grill the turkey at 300-350 degrees for 15 minutes for every pound. I'm no math genius, but I deduced I should grill my 20-pound turkey for 5 hours. At 11 a.m., I put the bird to flame. The guests were coming at 5 p.m. My turkey was done at 1:30. By 2:30, the popper that tells you the turkey is done had actually propelled out of the turkey and through the foil into the pan. By 2:45, the turkey carcass had literally split in half, with the breast bone cracked in half and meat falling off of it into what turned out to be about 6 cups of butter. My turkey was saying Uncle.

"At least I have potatoes," I thought as I walked to the basement fridge. I took the stockpot holding 15 pounds of potatoes I cleaned, peeled and diced the night before. But when I pulled the potatoes out of the fridge, I realized my error. Cut potatoes oxidize, and my diced white potatoes were all a nice charcoal color. With nowhere else to go, I boiled these gray potatoes, and skimmed the black foam off the top of the pan as they cooked. My youngest daughter squealed, "Oooh! Halloween potatoes!!"

When it was time to mash them, I found white things to put in the pot to lighten them, as one would with paint. Sour cream, salt, milk, half and half, all were added to the pot, but to no avail. The gray roadkill potatoes would be seated next to the broken down turkey on cinder blocks. With the corn playing banjo music next to it. Again, theme fulfilled.

I could go into the other food debacles of the night, like the dry creamed corn, or the shallow church social steamer I used that only kept about 5 servings of food warm at a time, but in times like these, I know people will forgive all of your food faux pas if you have dessert and liquor, and I had those in spades. My pastry chef/gourmand friend made the most amazing pies and homemade cinnamon ice cream, two other friends brought lots of wine to add to our stock, and one guest owns a brewery and brought a keg, so instead of asking "Can I get you more food?" our mantra became "Let me fill your glass".

All of the guests got lightly toasted (and a couple got quite fried), people sat on each other's laps or on their spouses shoulders (and pulled out lighters and yelled "Freebird!") minors were banished to the basement, and the last people left at almost 2 a.m. so it seemed to be a success.

Mother Wilder would have been proud. Or plowed. Because I'm hoping if I filled her glass often enough, she would forget about that busted up turkey and gray potatoes and only dream of pie and wine.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's Whoreticulture Friday! Issue 3

Whoreticulture: The industry and science of whores and whore-related topics. Whoreticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of OB-GYNery, Brazilian waxers and shavers, adultery, personal hygeine mavens and easy women. The word is composite, from two words, whore, from Greek meaning "harlot" or "dear", and the word culture. Like NPR's Science Friday, Whoreticulture Friday exists to educate and spark discussion on the science of Whorology. Whoreticulture Friday is not for children. Or squeamish people. Or Mother-In-Laws.

Today's topic: The Mammogram.

I actually had a different topic for today's Whoreticulture Friday, but at the eleventh hour (literally, at 11 p.m.) I decided I needed to get clearance on that story before I published it. See, even I can have standards! However, I did find out that it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so today is about the mammogram.

About three months ago, I went in for my annual pap smear. I saw a new doctor, who was fabulous, and let me tell you why - that guy was in and out of there so fast, I barely had time to say my standard greeting to OB-GYN's, which is "Hello, I shaved my legs for you." During the pat down, he asked when I had my last mammogram. I turned 40 this year, and I had a baseline mammo three years earlier when I had a lump, which turned out to be calcifications, but it still scares the hell out of you.

(I was so freaked out that I wrote goodbye letters to CH and my three children, just in case. Three weeks later, CH comes up the stairs, nearly in tears, and said, "Why did you write farewell notes to all of us? Is everything okay?" NOTE: When writing farewell notes and leaving them on husband's computer, label them with something like "I wrote these when I thought I had breast cancer" or he will think you are planning on taking a bottle of Vicodin.)

So I go in for another mammogram. Well what do you know, they see something funny on the film, so I have to go in for a more intensive mammo a few days later. Why does this fit into Whoreticulture Friday? Because it means that at least three people groped my breasts over a span of five days. That's three more people (other than CH) than my girls have seen in fourteen years. Not including babies. Or Labor and Delivery people. Or the Lactation consultants. Or that last mammogram. Or that unfortunate incident during my high school friend reunion ten years ago when we all flashed the atrium in the Embassy Suites. Okay, a lot of people have met the girls. A shameful number, really. But I digress.

For anyone who has never seen the inside of a mammogram room, it goes down like this: You are told to strip from the waist up and take off jewelry. If wearing deodorant, you have to wipe it off with wet wipes, and then put on the fancy gown. You are led down a hallway in front of other people to another room, with your loose gowny top flowing in the breeze. Please note that it is never warmer than 60 degrees in these hallways, and by the time you get to the screen room you are so cold that your nipples could cut glass. And then you get nervous and start to sweat, but you are no longer wearing deodorant, so that doesn't go well either.

You meet the person who is about to grab and manipulate your breasts. You walk up to a machine, and release the hounds. The breast-grabber takes ahold of you and flops it on a cold plate (unless you are still perky, and if so, I congratulate you), talking about her summer vacation, and inquiring about gas prices. You cannot make eye contact with this person, because she is about three inches from your face, holding your breast, you are naked down to the waist, and it is conceivable that it might look like you are trying to kiss her. Instead, look at the motivational poster of kittens and brace for impact. She turns a medieval-style crank until you visibly wince, and then tells you to stand absolutely still. You stand absolutely still, because if you don't, this machine will tear your breast from your sternum.

It's about now that I feel an almost overwhelming urge to sneeze. It starts as a small itch in the back of my nose, and then spreads into my sinus cavity. I am not to move, and yet, it is all I can do to not twitch my nose a little bit, and shut my eyes very tightly in hopes that I can quell the sneeze impluse. If I sneeze, three very bad things will happen:
1) I will spray snot and mucus all over the equipment.
2) My breast will tear away from my body.
3) I will most likely wet my pants.

I cannot stop thinking about the chaos that will ensue if I allow this sneeze to happen. Just as I am about to unleash a devastation this room has never seen, the camera goes "click" and the machine releases my numb, flat breast. I no longer have to sneeze. Repeat the exact same story on the other side.

After my breasts are sufficiently flattened and ridiculed on film, I am allowed to dress and told to call for results the next day. I call at the appointed time, and while I am on hold, I kid you not, this is the message playing: "Did you know that one in three women have irregular mammograms, and one in eight are diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives?" AAAAHHH! I believe this is not the best hold message for a mammography clinic, because if we are on the line, we are either scheduling an appointment, or getting results. Do you know what I would like to hear on that line? "Did you know all of our technicians are afflicted with short term memory loss? Are you aware that at your age, more people look at your beautiful eyes than your rack? Remember Junior High? Aren't you grateful that's over?"

My scan came out clean - it turns out that part of my breast folded over on itself in the first screen, creating a dense area of concern. That's right, I have enough loose skin on the girls that it can fold over on itself in a pancake machine. Here's what we learned today: Self-exam regularly. No deodorant at mammogram. Don't make eye contact with person handling your breast at exam. Do not think about sneezing, or anything to which you might be allergic. Be grateful you are out of Junior High.

So that's two questionable results that turned out okay, and I'm not exactly looking forward to the third strike. But let me say this - I know more women than I should who have survived breast cancer or are in the throes of it, and cancer makes you one tough cookie, not by choice. So my bra is respectfully off to them - for all my Rockin' the Recovery girls, and those who are just starting their battle, today's Whoreticulture Friday is dedicated to you. Because the odds are, we are all going to have to fight that battle, either for ourselves or with a loved one, and that truly takes some guts. For more information, go to

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I am Julie, Author Stalker

We interrupt Laura Ingalls Wilder month for a new random posting series:

Julie, Author Stalker

It is much like Walker, Texas Ranger, in that Walker, Texas Ranger is an American television police drama/action show known for its moral values and use of martial arts. Julie, Author Stalker, is an American wife drama/action sideshow known for her depravity and use of domestic arts. And she frightens authors at book signings.

Chuck Norris Facts:
*The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.
*Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
*In conversation, Chuck Norris often quotes himself, and then laughs about it.

Julie, Author Stalker Facts:
* The chief export of the Author Stalker is awkwardness and fear.
* Author Stalker not only finds authors, she stares them down until she gets the information she wants.
* In conversation, Author Stalker often quotes herself, and then laughs about it.

The big difference? Chuck Norris IS security, while Author Stalker is usually led out by security.

TODAY'S STALKED AUTHOR: Marilynne Robinson

The following information was shamelessly lifted from Wikipedia:
Marilynne Robinson (born November 26, 1943) is an American author. Her 1980 novel Housekeeping (see 1980 in literature) won a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for best first novel and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, Gilead (see 2004 in literature), was acclaimed by critics and received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the 2005 Ambassador Book Award. Her third novel, Home, published in 2008, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and won the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction. Also in 2009, she held a Dwight H. Terry Lectureship at Yale University, giving a series of talks entitled Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self.

Tonight I attended a reading by Marilynne Robinson. She was lovely, as was the book "Gilead", which I read and had her sign. She is an instructor at the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop and well respected in her field. During the Q&A segment of her reading, I asked her about her process in writing, and if winning a Pulitzer put any undue pressure on her. I sounded sane. She seemed okay with me, until I got in front of her.

Again, when I have too much time in line, I start thinking of weird things to say to people. Anyone who has lived with me for any length of time, which at this point would include my family of origin, my Chi Omega sorority sisters, and Current Husband and children, know that if I have too much time on my hands and am in the right mood, people could end up wrapped like a mummy in toilet paper (sorry Jen), or written on (sorry, CH), outlined like a dead body (sorry Tina), or covered in maxi pads (that was actually Barb, but I helped). Because I am THAT mature.

MR: "Hello."
ME: "Hi. I sure wish I could secret you away from here for 30 minutes and pick your brain."
MR: (Looks up, a little alarmed.)
ME: (Nervous laughter, like 'did I just say that out loud?') "But I'm sure Borders wouldn't let me take you away unwillingly, huh?"
MR: (Making mental note to have Borders employee walk her to car) "Make this out to Julie?"
ME: "SO, I thought about applying at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, but my work is more Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris's love child, if she weren't dead and he weren't gay. But I'm thinking the workshop is more literary...."
MR: "Yes. Yes, the workshop does tend to be more literary."
(Awkward silence. Fifty people in line behind me collectively grumble and sigh.)
ME: "Well, thanks! I really enjoy your books!"
MR: "Thank you." (Smiles relieved smile and turns to next person.)

Authors with restraining orders against Julie, Author Stalker in October: THREE!

1) Jen Lancaster, whom I e-mailed about missing her book signing because of David Sedaris, and actually asked her if she ever let complete strangers take her out for drinks. She sent a lovely reply saying, "Um, thanks for being a fan, but back the f**k off." Well, not exactly like that, but I have printed it, enlarged it, and put it in the Jen Lancaster shrine in my basement.

2) David Sedaris, whom my friend Judy and I insulted and then tried to make him read my blog with the eventual goal of him "discovering" me. I lost my favorite Jesus oilcloth coin purse over that. Why must I be so impulsive? After drinking just a little, tiny bit? I am enlarging his signature page, which read, "Julie, I look forward to reading your book" and putting it in the David Sedaris shrine in my basement.

3) Marilynne Robinson, who is a totally dignified Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, and is walking with a can of Mace to her car right about now. But I won't enlarge anything of hers, because I'm feeling a little guilty about threatening to kidnap her.

Stay tuned! My next scheduled author stalking is Nov. 4, when I meet Alexandra Fuller, author of "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight". I'm going with my book club, and drinks will be served.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dancing on Laura Ingalls Wilder's Grave

Mary yawned, and Laura said: "Ma, can't we get out and run behind the wagon? My legs are so tired."
"No, Laura," Ma said.
"Aren't we going to camp pretty soon?" Laura asked. It seemed such a long time since noon, when they has eaten their lunch sitting on the clean grass in the shade of the wagon.
Pa answered: "Not yet. It's too early to camp now."
"I want to camp, now! I'm so tired," Laura said.
Then Ma said, "Laura." That was all, but it meant that Laura must not complain. So she did not complain any more out loud, but she was still naughty, inside. She sat and thought complaints to herself.

Since we are on the downside of October, it's time to get all sentimental about Laura Ingalls Wilder month. Sniff. Even if Pa was crazy as a coon in heat, and Ma probably spit in his porridge in acts of passive aggressiveness, if Mary was so perfect that she kind of pissed you off and then you felt guilty when she went blind, and Carrie seemed kind of dull and Grace was spoiled, as a girl in the '70s you just had to love the Little House on the Prairie books.

I lived in Nebraska in a small town that made up the ribbon of civilization between the Omaha metro area and the grasslands that everyone hates on their drive to Colorado. The Little House books were my first love affair with history, and I could picture what Nebraska might have looked like 100 years before, and what girls my age were doing (which, by the way, was not playing Atari, eating Lucky Charms and watching Gilligan's Island.)

When I was 10 and my sister was 6, my mom took us on a summer trip to see Laura's home in Mansfield, Missouri. By then, I had probably read all of the Little House books three times, and was completely entranced with everything in them. I had to see it. My dad managed to bail out on that trip, since 8 hours in the car with three women to see Laura Ingalls Wilder's house held as much appeal as learning to make ganache or scrapbooking or talking about his feelings.

Here is what I remember from the trip to Mansfield:
* My mom drove her kick-ass white Thunderbird. In the pre-sunroof days it was complete with the T-roof feature where you had to stop the car, take out the heavy and highly breakable glass panels, and put them in the trunk. If it started to rain or birds kept crapping in your car, you'd have to pull over, open the trunk, and replace the heavy, highly breakable glass panels.

* My sister and I wanted McDonalds, and we got it for every meal because my Dad, Thrifty McThriftmiester, Mr. Bring Bananas In The Car, Mr. I'm Not Paying For That Crap, wasn't with us to say no.

* Mom found a hill in northern Missouri that would make you lose your stomach when you drove over the crest, so we made her stop, turn the car around, and go back and forth over it about 10 times, and she did it, earning her a place in the Mom Hall of Fame.

* My sister and I got bored, and found a really annoying way to amuse ourselves.

ME: "Can we stop and get out of the car?"
MOM: "No, Julie."
ME: "Aren't we going to be there pretty soon?" It seemed like forever since our most recent slop of the trough at the Golden Arches.
SISTER: "Yeah!" (She was six, her role was to play backup to whatever position I was taking.)
MOM: "No, we aren't close yet. Let's play a game - when you see a truck, you can honk my nose!" (This is one of those moments a parent looks back and says "What in the hell was I thinking!?!?")
ME: "TRUCK!" And I pushed my hand on Mom's nose.
ME: "TWO TRUCKS!" And I smack my hand on Mom's nose twice.
SISTER: "Me too!" And she semi-punches Mom in the nose twice.
MOM: (Dodging our blows and trying to stay out of the ditch) "Honk...honk...ouch..hey..Knock it off Dammit! No more honking!"
ME: "But Mom, it is a fun game!"

Then Mom said, "Julie." That was all, but it meant that I must not complain. But instead of being a good girl like Laura, I rode shotgun and complained the rest of the way to Mansfield, because I was that kind of child.

We did go to Rocky Ridge Farm, Laura and Almanzo's house in Mansfield, and to me it was the most amazing thing on the planet. The house, which Laura and Manly built themselves, was lovely, and it held all of the holy relics of the Little House series: Pa's actual fiddle, Mary's organ, the 'Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread' plate that survived the fire, the rocking chair Almanzo built for Laura, and of course tons of photos, brooches, letters, and other ephemera. I was in heaven.

From Rocky Ridge, we proceeded to the graveyard, where we visited Laura's grave. There she was, next to Manly. And then something a little undignified happened. My sister, who had gamely followed me through the house and into the gift shop and now to the graveyard, was having a revelation.

"WAIT A MINUTE!!!" she screamed. "Do you mean to tell me that we drove ALL THIS WAY to see some DEAD LADY'S HOUSE!?!?!"

She agreed to this trip on the terms that Melissa Gilbert would come bounding out of the house, braids flying behind her, to bring us in to camp out in the attic, go for wagon rides and play by the creek and mess with Nellie Olson. But she had NOT signed up to poke around some dead person's stuff. It was too much. My little sister proceeded to have a full-blown meltdown, dancing on the grave of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Because that dead bitch had done her wrong.

We don't speak of the "Dead Lady Vacation" in my family, but let's just say that my sister never became a fan of the books, my mom never again proposed games that involved smacking her about the face while driving, and I still send messages of apology to LIW every once in a while.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's Whoreticulture Friday! Issue 2

Whoreticulture: The industry and science of whores and whore-related topics. Whoreticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of OB-GYNery, Brazilian waxers and shavers, adultery, personal hygeine mavens and easy women. The word is composite, from two words, whore, from Greek meaning "harlot" or "dear", and the word culture. Like NPR's Science Friday, Whoreticulture Friday exists to educate and spark discussion on the science of Whorology.

Today's topic: David Sedaris wants me stoned

Last night I was a complete whore.

Current Husband and I went with friends to see David Sedaris. He was hysterical, of course, and my favorite part of his show was the "Comb-over Jesus" montage, when Sedaris points out that it's easy to worship someone with perfect skin and a washboard stomach, but wouldn't it show more faith to worship someone with shoulder acne who was so overweight he broke the first cross?

I met David Sedaris last night. Did I tell him he's funny? An inspiration? A snappy dresser? No, because my friend Judy and I were too busy telling him about ourselves, and whoring out my writing to the poor man. Here's how it went down:

JUDY: Hi. I haven't read anything you've written, but I'm sure you're very funny. I'm a virgin to your work.
ME: I brought her! (Sedaris ignores me, because it is not my turn.)
SEDARIS: What do you do, Judy?
JUDY: I'm an attorney.
SEDARIS: And what field do you practice?
ME: Look at me! Stop talking to my friend! I'M the one who reads your books! Can you get me an agent?
JUDY: Employment law.
SEDARIS(eyeing me warily): And how do you two know each other?
JUDY: Our husbands are dating. My friend is a really talented writer...
ME (feigning humility): Judy, once you tell him that he will stop talking to us because he will think we're trying to use him!
SEDARIS: No I won't! I was there once, too...
ME (Interrupting): Okay, my blog is I'm the wife.
JUDY: She's really funny.
SEDARIS (motioning us toward the door politely, small smile on his face): Okay.

Judy and I walk into the hall, giggling like schoolgirls. I thought it went well, until I got home, and I realized that I waited in line nearly 2 hours to tell him about me. Not once did I mention his writing, and I just handed over my book without even saying, "Hey, I love your book!" I'm sure he is thinking "Wow, it's so incredible to meet my adoring public, especially the narcissists! They think they're so interesting!"

Everyone else waiting in line got a gift from Sedaris - he handed out the hotel shampoos and soaps to some, chocolate to others, and to the two teachers from Illinois in front of us, he autographed one of the essays he read that night and gave it to them. What did he give me and Judy? His patience and restraint, as he surely wanted to punch me in the giblets. But he's too classy for that.

I did give him a gift - my good friend Nanci in Colorado sent a funny oilcloth coin purse for my birthday, but I could never use it because my son thought it was sacreligious and I would go to hell. I regifted it to David Sedaris last night in honor of Comb-over Jesus. The coin purse had pictures of Jesus on both sides, and it said "Jesus Saves - he'll oogle if you're frugal".

Sedaris accepted my gift, and I'm sure as he gives it away to someone in Birmingham or Phoenix he will remember me, and think it should've had a picture of the whore being saved from the stoning. Because Sedaris? Surely wanted me stoned.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pioneer Runway

I come from a long line of Mennonites. My father's family are very kind, practical, thrifty people, so it's no wonder I lean toward the practical joking/social drinking Irish of my mother's kin. Dad is a total by-the-book Mennonite, except for the drinking, smoking, swearing, vanity, breaking the Sabbath, not going to church and some light coveting. However, he is thriftier than God.

The first time my parents met Current Husband, we ate turkey, and when CH took dark meat, my mom looked at me and said, "Oh no. Not this one." My dad was the only dark-meat-eating member of the family, and my mother equated a thigh preference with someone who wouldn't turn on the AC until it is 110 degrees outside, or the heat unless toes start turning white and numb (this is actually true). My mother was right - CH is a big miser. You'll find Mom working in Omaha at "Get Your Meat Read at Jan's House of Turkey Futures."

CH is always trying to find creative ways to save money. His current experiment involves cancelling cable and putting a wireless modem in the basement so we can watch TV from the Internet. At dinner, my youngest daughter's favorite part of the day was finding out that Spongebob might be marrying Sandy on Nick next week. When I told her we wouldn't have cable TV, she was devastated. It was like I told her Santa wasn't real, AND he kicked the tooth fairy in the bicuspids. I patted her hand and said, "It's your Daddy's fault."

There are only three shows I watch, and they are ALL on cable: The Daily Show/Colbert (I consider these one show), Mad Men, and Project Runway. Missing Project Runway makes me think about the Ingalls women, and how they could sew. On Project Runway, contestants frequently have to make outfits out of strange raw materials, like newspaper or candy wrappers, and I realize that is ALL those pioneer women had to make their clothes.

In "By The Shores of Silver Lake" the whole family makes a coat for Grace. Pa shoots a swan (Aaah! Who kills a swan!? Stop the madness, Pa!), Ma stretches and prepares the skin, and the girls sew together blue silk and make the lining out of swan's down. Michael Kors would have LOVED them, and mark my words, that swan coat would've made it to Bryant Park.

On the Little House version, Pioneer Runway, the contestants make clothes out of synthetic fabric, since the stuff they are wearing is already made out of flour sacks and gun casings and swans. For tonight's challenge, they work in teams, and they must: "Create A Pioneer Woman's Everyday Work Outfit With Mostly Polyester."

There are only eight designers left, and the teams are Laura and Mary (naturally), Ma and Carrie, that bitch Nellie Olson and her mother, and the requisite gay team of Albert Ingalls and Willie Olson. (Oh come on, you KNOW Willie was gay!) They have 10 minutes in the Mood General Store, and they panic because no one is there to cut and they only have a budget of fifty cents. They make it under budget and leave. "Thank you, Mood!"

They are working as quickly as they can, because it is only light out for another hour, the kerosene lamps are dim, there is only one pedal sewing machine and Mrs. Olson keeps "accidentally" breaking the needles. Laura is feeling the time crunch and having second thoughts about their design.

LAURA: "Mary, this is a fashion disaster. We're being too safe."
MARY: "What are you saying? It's beautiful!"
LAURA: "It's too Goddess. Goddess is SO last year. We might as well throw a pashmina and a sailor hat on it."
MARY: "No, it has great construction, and I think we're going to win this challenge."
LAURA: "Jesus, Mary, what are you, blind?"
MARY: "Um...."
LAURA: "Oh, sorry, I forgot."
(Mary continues to hand-sew a pocket inside-out on the right calf of the dress.)

Tim Gunn walks in to check everyone's work. He's in a coonskin cap and carries an actual gun, turning his name into a charming, fable-like moniker. As he is reviewing Ma and Carrie's wrap dress, ("This concerns me"), it gets too close to the kerosene lamp and bursts into flame. They are out. Auf Wiedersehen.

Suddenly, the Olson's swing dress gets too close to the cookstove, and it too flames out. Albert and Willie are fighting about who is actually the team leader, because Albert IS the team leader, but Willie keeps alpha-bitching him, and Albert is angry. Theirs is a winter outfit, meant to be worn on the way home from visiting a neighbor, but when they put the hot potatoes in the pocket (to keep the wearer's hands warm, remember?) the heat melts the poly into a literal hot mess. Tim tells them they have to "Make it work."

They get on the Runway, and the Pioneer creations get scathing remarks from Michael, Heidi, Nina Garcia, and from their guest judge, Willa Cather.
"It's like a Buffalo's ass."
"She's a hoochie momma after a terrible barn fire."
"You have no sense of style. You are boring us, and that's hard in a time of no entertainment or technology."
"You design for your client, not the volunteer bucket brigade."
"Love the pocket on the lower calf - so innovative and original!"

Laura and Mary win, of course, because no Little House story ends with an Olson beating an Ingalls. And I will be watching my three shows on our TV by Christmas, because I know how to break CH. But this time, I have three little Disney/Nick addicts to back me up, and nobody puts (our) Baby in the corner.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Time For a Beatin'

"...Then Pa growled so terribly, his hair was so wild and his eyes so fierce that it all seemed real. Mary was so frightened that she could not move. But as Pa came nearer Laura screamed, and with a wild leap and a scramble she went over the wood box, dragging Mary with her.
'You shouldn't frighten the children so, Charles...
Look how big their eyes are!'" - Ma, Little House in the Big Woods

It's one thing to read the Little House books as a kid in the 70's, but it's quite another to read them with your young children today. They dislike Little House in the Big Woods for reasons other than pig killing. It's because throughout the book, when Pa isn't murdering the forest creatures, he is either spanking, telling stories about spanking, or acting like he's on peyote. These all qualify with my kids as "Reasons to Dislike Charles Ingalls."


That's the sound of my "Oh the kids will come to love the Little House books as I have" bubble bursting.

Their cultural references today do not cover discipline, because no one on Disney or Nick ever gets disciplined. The mom on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody isn't cutting a switch from a tree in the lobby of the Tipton and beating the tar out of those kids (oh, but they so richly deserve it). Spencer, Carly's brother on iCarly, doesn't go all Mike Tyson on her when her friend Samantha eats all of their food or floods their house. And Spongebob doesn't run around acting like he's on peyote. (Oh wait. He does. How else do you explain a sponge in tighty whiteys who lives in a pineapple under the sea and is friends with a starfish in OP shorts and a squirrel in a dive suit. But it's really funny, so that's okay.)

My sister and I grew up in the 70's, when it was becoming uncouthe to beat your children. Semantics dictated that it was no longer discipline and was now to be called abuse, soon to be followed in the '80s with the banning of leaving kids in the car while grocery shopping and making them fetch your rum and Cokes at parties.

My worst physical punishment on record, and believe me when I tell you that I wholeheartedly deserved every punishment I got, was when I sassed my mom in the car. As you can imagine, I was as a child, and knew which pointy sharp words to use on appropriate occasions. We pulled into the mall parking lot and I was in the back seat when my mom made some stern comment, probably about my attitude. I retorted with a statement designed to escalate the situation, knowing I was safe in the back seat. My mom got very quiet, put her cigarette carefully in the ashtray, and tried to lunge over the backseat to slap me. She made contact only once, since I was not wearing a seatbelt and was still in my Sears Toughskins slim jeans, and then she realized people in the parking lot were watching her. She told me to sit in the car and think about what I had done while she went into the mall, presumably to find a bar and an adoption agency.

Did I sit in that backseat and think about what I had done? Au contraire, my friends. Pa would have spanked me, then regaled me with a story about how his father had been caught breaking the Sabbath by sledding and then hit a pig (loose pigs were apparently very prevalent back then) and his father had to wait until the Sabbath was over to get his beating, and I would have felt ashamed and contrite.

No, I sat in the backseat of the car repeatedly slapping myself in the same spot my mom had hit me so I could get a bruise, or at least an angry welt, and then when people would say, "What happened to you?" as they surely would because my life was so important to them, I could say, "My mom hit me". Believe me when I tell you that my mom gets very nice Mother's Day cards today.

I think my sister's worst punishment came when we didn't pick up our toys like we were supposed to, and after telling us to pick up forty times my dad finally came unhinged and started throwing our toys up the stairs to our rooms. One of the items Dad launched up the stairs was my sister's beloved doll, Goo-Goo. Goo-Goo was one of those 70's dolls (whose brand name escapes me) that not only drank a bottle and peed, she ate food and pooped. Goo-Goo came sailing up the stairs in slow motion, her bright yellow and olive green frock floating gracefully around her as she hit the wall, at which time her head popped off and she shat herself.


The next person to come unhinged in my family was my sister, looking at her beheaded doll laying in a puddle of her own poo. But I can't blame Goo-Goo, because anyone who has witnessed my dad coming unhinged knows this is a common response. Goo-Goo took one for the team that day. Dad sort of shuffled off in horror and I tried unsuccessfully to hook Goo-Goo's head back on her body, but alas, that doll had taken her last crap.

Pa's disciplinary measures may not have survived into the 21st century, but his storytelling with a message lives on. Today, my sister and I like to tell our kids about how Grumpy broke our favorite toys while high on peyote, just before the liquor and the beatings, and that if they don't shape up we'll invite Grumpy over to the house. It's far more effective than cutting a switch.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It's Whoreticulture Friday!

Whoreticulture: The industry and science of whores and whore-related topics. Whoreticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of OB-GYNery, Brazilian waxers and shavers, adultery, personal hygeine mavens and easy women. The word is composite, from two words, whore, from Greek meaning "harlot" or "dear", and the word culture.

I'm taking a page from NPR's Science Friday - every other Friday will be Whoreticulture Friday, when I will report on the field of Whoreticulture. If you have any suggestions for topics in the study of whoreticultury, I welcome them.

Today's topic: Bushwhackery.

Watching television with my kids has become increasingly interesting. Not only are they getting older and better able to understand the commercials, the commercials are getting into our pants a lot more than they used to. I give you Viagra, Levitra, Mother Nature, and best of all, Schick and the topiary commercials.

IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU CLICK THE TITLE "It's Whoreticulture Friday!" OF THIS POST TO TAKE YOU TO THE SCHICK "MOW THE LAWN" VIDEO. THEN HIT THE BACK BUTTON TO COME BACK TO THE BLOG. If you haven't seen this commercial, it will change your life. It did mine.

Did you click it? Are you nearly wetting your pants? Because if you are, you should really be doing some Kegel exercises. More on that later.

Never feel untidy-
Just spruce up your aphrodite!

I have to say that the first time I saw this commercial was on YouTube, and I think it is the British version. The version I see on TV is quite a bit more tame (pun intended!), and yet, my 10-year-old son somehow knows what they are talking about. It brings me back to an e-mail conversation between my high school friends years ago regarding personal hedge trimming.

A bunch of us got together for a weekend, and one of them is an OB-GYN. I could spend every single day with her at the office. Not because I want to look at anyone's treasure trove in stirrups, but because I want to stand in the hall and talk to her about every single patient she sees.

ME: "So, Doc, what was her deal?"
HER: "The usual, pap and pat, no issues."
ME: "Was she tattooed? Piercings? Look like she likes it rough?"
HER: "No, none of that. But she was trimmed in the shape of Florida."
ME: "Excellent."

Whenever we get together, we try to ply our OB friend with wine and get her to tell us stories, but she rarely does, probably because she is a good doctor who doesn't dish. She will occasionally give us educational stories, like "Be careful with the type of thong you wear, I had to lance a boil last week." We don't want names or gossip, we just want to know what kind of wacky shit goes on in those rooms.

For instance, once, when I had to go to Student Death in college because my monthly deal was so heavy I thought I was bleeding to death, the woman doctor finished up and said "Looks like endometriosis - is there anything else you want me to look for?" and I couldn't help myself, I had to say, "Yes, I lost a watch recently." I thought it was hilarious, but the doctor rolled her eyes, snapped off her latex gloves, said "check out at the desk" and walked out. These are the stories I need to hear.

Anyway, after a few glasses of wine, I asked my OB friend how people maintain themselves - does she see a lot of Brazilians? Strips? Shapes? Hairy Growler? She said she has seen it all, and to be careful if you're a shaver, she has put in stitches when someone cut their labia with a razor while shaving. (Taking a moment to shudder.)

After the weekend, we e-mailed each other about this topic. What do you do? We started talking about the different things we do, and stories we'd heard from friends. (Such as the gal whose friend got her starfish waxed - think about that for a second - but only once. Or the woman who decided to go Brazilian, and as soon as they got the wax on, she sat up and tried to leave because she freaked out, and said she would've run down the streets of Chicago with no pants and a big patch of wax on her taco.)

So as we're talking, one friend who wasn't with us that weekend sent a panicky e-mail that said, "GIRLS! What is this!? Does everyone do some sort of trimming, because I never have! Are all of my high school boyfriends talking about my huge bush!?!" So we all e-mail her what we do to reassure her that yes, they are all talking about her.

In the middle of our e-mail frenzy, she sends out another e-mail with the subject "STOP" and reads, "Hello. Please stop e-mailing me about this. I will explain later." It turns out that the guys in IT sent her an e-mail reminding her about the No Personal E-mails Policy at her job. At the time, she was a VP of a large department at a national corporation. Shortly thereafter, her boss sent her an e-mail saying, "The IT department has informed me that you are sending and receiving a large number of personal e-mails, and that you should re-acquiant yourself with the personal e-mail policy."

Oh yeah. The IT department guys, likely all crowded around one computer in the dark IT room, now knew she was sporting a hairy growler, and had possibly enlightened her boss. However, they waited until she had received over 25 e-mails describing every possible way Aphrodite could be styled.

Well played, IT guys. Well played.

Happy Whoreticulture Friday, and have a great weekend!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Laura is to braids as I am to Aniston

Last Friday I got a haircut.

When I say "haircut," I mean the chemical painting of my hair to cover up the 'Old Hag Salt and Pepper' color I naturally sport, cutting of the hair, and then waxing of my Freda Kahlo moustachio. After I paid my (gasp!!!) $130 bill for said haircut and procedures (please God do not let CH read this post), I started thinking that might be more than Laura paid for hair maintenance in HER ENTIRE LIFE. I will be embracing my future styling, heretofore called "The Half Pint."

Anyone who watched "Little House on the Prairie" and saw Melissa Gilbert bounding down the grassy hill knows Laura was a braid girl. Except for Little House in the Big Woods, Laura is always illustrated with her hair in braids, either down her back or done up in a bun-type do. I have serious doubts as to whether Laura ever had her hair colored. It was probably highlighted from the sun, as she sometimes disobeyed Ma and ran on the prairie without her bonnet, but never in an orangey Sun-In sort of way (see Julie in Junior High).

I feel confident it's equally likely Laura Ingalls Wilder never had wax applied to her body, be it the upper lip, brow or netherparts, unless it was after the hogs were butchered and some tallow for candles spilled. (And I dearly hope that was not on her netherparts.)

Basically I'm thinking Laura would strongly disapprove of my entire haircare regimen.

Since my appointments are so expensive (somehow I am shocked at the total every single time, and check the receipt for mistakes), I only get my hair done every 12 weeks or so. It's important to me to let my roots grow out 3 inches and to get a nice downy black fluff above my lip so that when I come home from the appointment I look so stunningly improved that if CH should happen to see the amount it took to get me that way he might ignore it.

As the appointments are three months apart, I forget them. Organized mothers have their appointments written down in a handy calendar they keep in their purse. I'm not one of those mothers; I write things down on scraps of paper I keep in my purse, later used to catch gum from my children. The salon calls me the night before my appointment to remind me, and again, I am always surprised. This is the life of the disorganized wife and mother - always full of surprises!

My stylist is a lovely unmarried young person who is blonde, thin, childless and owns her own home. Because of this, she has no traces of bitterness or stress about her, and always seems cheerfully optimistic that she can help when I ask to look like Natalie Portman or Jennifer Garner. I whip out a book to read and she goes to work.

Last week, something went very wrong.

Instead of my usual lighter color, trim, and lip wax, I ended up with darker hair, a Jennifer Aniston cut circa Rachel, and a very abnormally swollen, pink upper lip. I looked like I was unshowered, ready to break up with Ross (again), and resembling Hitler in pink. I was a real-life dirty Rachel Green FemiNazi.

I don't know what happened on that fateful day. Was Blonde Girl distracted? Angry? High? Taking out her secret sado-masochistic streak on me? I'll never know. When she twirled me around to look at my hair, I stifled a gasp and said, "It looks great, thanks!" because I am that much of a gutless wonder. And then I gave her a 20% tip (included in the $130 total for those keeping track) and made my appointment for January, which I promptly forgot.

Next time, I'm going for braids. Welcome to The Half Pint.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Yesterday was Current Husband's 40th birthday. Shhh. He doesn't want anyone to know.

It's not so much that CH is uptight about his age, but he really doesn't want people to "know things" about him. This is why I have a blog. So I don't talk about him to people we know.

A few weeks ago, I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said, "Nothing." And he meant it. He wanted nothing. No cards, no party, no gifts. When he asks me what I want for my birthday, I usually say nothing. What I mean is that I would like a nice card with thought that he didn't buy at a gas station, dinner, a gift card to somewhere I love, and a big deal made out of the three meals during the day with in-between surprise massages and coffee delivery. Gifts are optional, but appreciated.

I have a hard time with getting him nothing for his birthday. He puts up with my erratic mood swings and questionable sense of humor all year long, so it's nice for me to feel like I can do something selfless for him one day a year that I can throw in his face when we have a fight. I thought about having a roller skating party, or a ping pong tournament party, or even a small but tasteless dinner party. But each time I thought of these things, all I could think about was his face when he walked into the room - disbelief, followed by masked annoyance, followed by a quick guesstimate as to how much it all cost - and then his feigned enjoyment of the night while everyone paid attention to him. So not fun in his world.

Yesterday was his birthday, and guess what I did? Nothing. And I felt horrible. And he loved it. He laid in bed, watched college football, and made the kids give him back rubs and bring him stuff (so different from other weekends? Hmmm.). I finally made him get up and get dressed so I could take him out for dinner at the Faithful Pilot in LeClaire, Iowa (if you have never been, you really should) but that was more about my guilt than his day.

How does this relate to Laura Ingalls Wilder? Well, it really doesn't, except that I am sure she didn't get Manly much on his birthdays, and she didn't throw him a roller skating party either. Happy Birthday, Current Husband. Enjoy your day of nothing. But don't think this is the gift that keeps on giving when my birthday comes around, because I'm a little more Nellie Olson than that.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Laura Ingalls Wilder is my Homegirl

Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs...

I've loved Laura Ingalls Wilder since I could pick up a book, and since I am feeling themey lately, I am going to move from Neil Diamond Month in September straight into Laura Ingalls Wilder Month in October.

I so wanted my kids to love the Little House books, and when my oldest daughter was about 7 and my son around 5, I started to read Little House in the Big Woods to them. I should have remembered that they thought the Easter Bunny was creepy and Santa was a stranger who wanted them to sit on his lap and tell him all their secrets.

By page 5, the killing started.

Instead of inspiring them to think of historic, frontier America, the book made them despise pioneers. Pa was offing deer, bears, squirrels, and rabbit. To my kids, this was Bambi, Teddy, Chip and Dale and Thumper. Then Ma is taking them apart like a serial killer and stuffing the bits in the attic.

By page 13, they were dismantling a hog.

ME: "...and then when they butchered the hog, Ma saved the bladder and blew it up for the girls to play with it..."
THEM: "What do you mean, 'the bladder?'"
ME: "The bladder is an organ inside of the pig. Ma blew it up so they could play with it, like a balloon."
THEM: "What do you mean, 'organ inside the pig?'"
ME: "It's something inside your body, like your heart or your lungs. But it was a toy!"
THEM: "And what does the bladder do?"
ME: " is the thing that holds the urine, so when it gets full you have to go to the bathroom. But then they could bat it back and fun!"
THEM: "...............urine. Like pee?"
ME: "Yes, but it was like a balloon, or a kickball when Ma blew it up. Whee!"
THEM: "THEY PLAYED WITH THE PIG'S PEE BAG!?!?! That is so gross! Why would they do that!?! What was wrong with those little girls!"
ME: "But they didn't have toys, really! This was normal! It was like a pretty balloon! They could play with it!"
THEM: "We don't care how poor we ever get, we will never play with things from inside of animals, and especially not things their pee or poop goes through!"
ME: "And then Ma started making the head cheese..."
THEM: "No way. We are done with this Laura chick and her crazy mother."

And really, how could I argue with that logic?

Perhaps Little House in the Big Woods with the opening butchering scene wasn't the right choice, but I'm a purist. Laura wrote it first, therefore it should be first. You don't start with These Happy Golden Years, damn it, you start with the Big Woods, because all the books stem from Pa's restless nature. Once six neighbors were within 50 miles of him, Pa was feeling crowded, and really, you don't come on Pa's land or he'll sic Jack the Bulldog on you, grab his shotgun above the door and pop a cap in your ass.

Laura was Pa's half pint, she is the Original Frontier Girl, and she is my homegirl in October! Now go eat some corn pone and grease the bear traps!