Thursday, December 31, 2009

You know something has changed when...

You write a poem. And it was the easiest poem I ever wrote, which is saying a heck of a lot. Even that awful stuff I wrote in high school didn't come this easy. There's got to be a lit-class lecture in there somewhere.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Okay, so I'm really excited about tomorrow

Tomorrow is the 3rd Annual Adams Holiday Extravaganza, also known as the annual Christmas project. Each year we take turns choosing the project and the recipient. Last year, Mom chose. She picked this group, and we all went out hunting down warm pajamas and creative books. This project was great for two reasons. One, we could each purchase individually what we could afford and had budgeted for. Two, I had a coupon, two gift certificates, and LB had just put everything on "final clearance." Don't judge. The cheaper it is, the more you can buy. I got lots of super pairs of pajamas for $16. On Christmas Eve, we delivered them to Lorrie Shadko, who directs the Memphis chapter of the program. For me, comfort in its most primal level comes in comfy pajamas, bedsheets, and good stories. It was a joy and an honor to get to pass that on to children whose lives are desperately short on comfort and joy.

This year, Tom picked. It has a funny backstory. Tom called me at work one day to bounce the idea, and I confess I thought it...not likely to come to much. Frankly, though a good idea, I was pretty sure the State was going to shut it down. But I liked the idea at heart, and I'm really glad he decided to go through with it. Adamses are workers, and we love a project. But usually our projects don't always bring us into much contact with the beneficiaries. Like with the pajama recipients. Thanks to Tom's idea, this year we will.

With Vanessa's family joining in, we are going to set up shop tomorrow at the I-40 westbound Jackson rest stop to distribute more Christmas cheer, this time in the form of coffee and snacks. We have decorations, drinks, snacks, music--the works. I'm very excited about doing this, and although the weather will be miserable, hopefully we'll be a little spot of brightness. There are a few people who won't be there with us, but whose past generosity and openness of spirit will be with us:

Charlene Brown gave me a metal table-top Christmas tree last year that is lit with candles instead of string lights. Anticlimactic. But TDOT won't allow us to plug in any type of electrical cord, so her gift solves the problem!

Hope Shull got onto me once as a student about bringing food and drinks into her library. When I returned as an employee, I discovered she had actually purchased a coffee bar and was encouraging students to eat, drink, and be merry. In the library. She is letting us use all of the urns to keep the coffee and other drinks hot.

The State of Tennessee--inefficient, a "bottom ten-er", and run by good ol' boys--really liked the idea. That is, the guy at the Jackson TDOT headquarters did. And as long as we avoid the power cords aforementioned, don't solicit, and don't block entrances and exits, then they will support our efforts at Christmas cheer. They could have said no.

And I hope that our visitors will enjoy the Christmas cheer, too. I've thought a lot this year about what it means to put good things out into the world. You may call it karma or kismet or good vibes or whatever. How does our Christmas party for strangers at a rest stop ripple out into the rest of the world? I don't know, but it is my prayer that it does. I know you will put good things into the world.

Pictures to follow!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

You must try this

A while back, I blogged about the albatross. Go here and buy the Aloe & Comfrey Lotion. Always happy to find an improvement! Drop the heavy duty foot creams. Most of them are just petroleum-based anyway. Maggie's Pharm (hah-get it?) is a lovely little hidden gem in Midtown Memphis that sells dried herbs, concoctions, lotions, shampoos, and all sorts of other good-smelling things (coffees, teas, spices, etc.)

It is smooth, cool, absorbs instantly (even on eczema), and heals heels within a few applications. A perfect addition to my regimen!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Grumble, grumble

Put the Christmas spirit on hold for a few minutes. Students that were terrible students should not be allowed to evaluate their instructors. If you didn't come to class more than half the time, and actually posed the question "How seriously do you want us to take this assignment?" then just shut up. PS--This is student performance unworthy of honors students.

Part the Second:
To balance out the above grumble, here's an article to avenge the put-upon and bring a smile to your face:
At least some poor b-----d got what he deserved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Woke up with this on the heart

For my family, my friends, present and erstwhile. For Will. For deliciously soft yarns and clicky needles. For cityscapes and beaches. For the color red. For Christmas lights. For 3yos. For hills to hike up. Even the really, really hard ones. For JustLove Coffee. For new babies coming in January. For Brooklyn, NY and Nashville, TN and Alexandria, VA. For handmade paper. For Lucinda Williams. For kitties. For The Med. For a paycheck. For my church family. For dreams to dream. For vernacular architecture. For books, books, books. For a healing thyroid.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Santa's Not Real: A Cautionary Tale

Sitting around with several old and dear friends this weekend, the question of how to talk to young children about Santa came up. Santa--ubiquitious, inescapable, lovable, fictional. Some said their parents made a big deal of it, even punishing older children for "outing" the secret to younger siblings. Some said their parents didn't encourage a belief in Santa, but acknowledged that he was a useful tool (an implement, an implement!) for spreading all the sentiments of the holiday. Others still expressed belief that since Santa is, at heart, fictional then to perpetuate (you have no idea how long that took to type!) the story is a lie, plain and simple. My parents used Santa as a way to talk about sex.

Okay, my mom did. I will never need to know how Dad brought it up with Tom. At the tender age of 8, ah...I remember the event as if it were yesterday. My 10yo sister and I were taken to her room, which had two windows. One looking on to the front yard, the other looking onto the driveway. Beige curtains with blue and orange flowers matched the bedspread we were sitting on (being 1987 and all). On that sunny, cold day with the smell of ironing in the air, my mother asks, "Do either of you know what sex is?" After a suppressed giggle, Nicole says, "It's when men and women get in bed and kiss a lot." I come back with, "Nuh-uh. It's when men and women get in bed and take their clothes off and kiss a lot." And from there, the conversation becomes a collection of strobe-like images and words. Pictures of conception from the 1960s-era book her mother doubtless used to teach her about babies and growing changes. Mostly I remember the laughter of my sister and I as we were being fed the single-most ridiculous set facts of our young lives. More than once, Mom said if we couldn't get it together, we were going to go back downstairs.

But it's the end of the conversation I've never been able to get away from. Mom assured Nicole and I she was always available and open for conversations about sex, changes, confusion, even showing us where she kept these books so we could go back to them if we didn't want to talk. (Yeah, right. I wasn't going back to that!) Then she turns to me and says, "And by the way, Erin? Santa isn't real. Neither is the Tooth Fairy,the Easter Bunny, or the Great Pumpkin. Your Dad and I do it. Don't tell Rachel."

Puh-lease. You've sat here and fed me this clearly-unbelievable story about...sehhhxxx...and now you expect me to believe you about Santa? I love Santa--the idea of Santa. How there is someone in the world so devoted to the joy and reward of others that he makes impossible stretches of time, culture, religion, socioeconomics to bring that joy to all. Because of "Santa" we stand outside grocery stores and ring bells, or work in soup kitchens, or be nice to our neighbors, or create an atmosphere of peace and joy and beauty. Sex was weird. Sure it's the way the universe propagates itself, and it unites people in marriage as the "one flesh" the Bible speaks of. But it generates a lot of hurt in the world--infidelity, prostitution, sin, addiction, abuse, emotional distress, financial irresponsibility. But, but...Santa? Sometimes I wish the had story ended with Santa being real and sex being false.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crying over broken ornaments: A Christmas fable

Layla: Aun Terin ("Aunt Erin"), come look at my Chwistmas tree!
Erin: Ooh, how pretty! Did you put it up all by yourself?
Layla: NO, me and mama and daddy. See this snowman's funny legs jiggle? But you can't touch. Right, Daddy? We can't touch the Chwistmas ownaments off the twee?
Daddy: Right, baby. Thank you for following directions. You can touch them, but don't take them off.
Layla: Ow ownaments have a stowy. Mama got this one at wook. We got this howse at the dewby in Kenkucky.
Erin: Do all of the ornaments have a story? What about this one? (Pointing to a large jingle bell. Located far to the inside of the tree. One would have to reach over other more fragile ornaments to get to it. Stupid Aunt Erin.)
Layla: No, but it makes a stowy! Wisten? (jingle, jingle.)
Vanessa: Layla, are you showing off our tree? (Reaches to straighten up jingle bell. Sends Layla's first christmas ornament to the floor, shattering in about a million pieces of glass.)
Vanessa: Oh, no! Not that one!
Layla: (Immediately clenching and unclenching her legs around my waist and her fists.) No, Mama! No, Mama! Don't tell Daddy. Don't tell Daddy!
Vanessa: Layla, it's not your fault. Mama dropped it because she wasn't being careful with it. It's Mama's fault.
Layla: (Now with tears in her eyes.) NO! NO! NO! Don't tell Daddy! Don't tell Daddy!
Vanessa: But Layla? You're not in trouble!

Narrator's note: My brother does not beat his child or wife. No need to get nervous here.

Layla: (Unintelligble words mixed with sobs and flailing arms.)
Vanessa: Layla, come here. It's okay.
Layla: (Something that sounds like) "Don't...Daddy...know...bwoken!"
Daddy: I'm not mad about the ornament. Let's have a hug. We're all okay. (Family group hug.)

And the three wise adults stand around looking shocked, trying to account for meaning in Layla's meltdown. We were almost crying, still mystified at the cause of such unfettered grief. Tom retrieved the broom and dustpan, and Vanessa began sweeping up the mess. Layla's defeated retreat to the fireplace was accompanied by more shuddering sobs and finally a meek little, "but ow twee is still pwetty, isn't it Aun Tewin?"

Was that the key? She knew she wasn't responsible for the broken ornament. She knew Mama would clean it up. She knew she wasn't cut. Layla was grieving the loss of perfection in her beautiful Christmas. I like to think she was mourning the loss of one part of the story her Christmas tree tells. "Environment" as a concept fascinates me: how it's created and how people respond to it. T&V's Christmas decorations create an environment not just of physical appeal, but of story, of tradition, and even a three-year old responds to it.