Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mixed Messages In A Troubled Economy

Over dinner last night Mister says to me, "So I got a raise today.  If we can keep the company afloat I'll be getting 2,000 extra a month. Soooooooo, that should help.  Right?"

No word yet on how big an "IF" we're talking about here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Proud Parent Alert

EM was in the newspaper the other day.  Can you spot her?

One of the local papers featured the kulturskole where she takes her art class on the occassion of its 30th anniversary, and she just happened to get in the way of their photographers the day they visited.  Clever girl.

That's EM on the right with her artsy friend Mona, holding blind portraits they did of each other during class that day.  I know you can't see it very well in the picture of the picture of the picture, but there's something very Modigliani in the pointy chin and strong patches of flat, vivid colors.  I totally dig it--parental obligations notwithstanding.

They don't get to take any of their work home with them until the end of the school year.  There's going to be a big student exhibit in June, and the teachers keep everything on hand until they decide which pieces they want to display.  The only other thing she's done for the class that I have to share with you is this Christmas card:
Her teacher tells me that she has a very well developed sense of color and balance. 

Sure.  Sure, I say.  But when are you going to teach her to do hands?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Norway, Death, And Pain

The year is 1988--August. I am 15 years old. Not only is it my first day of high school—the 10th grade—which is stressful enough, but my family moved over the summer, so I’m in a whole new neighborhood, a whole new school district, an entirely new kettle of mostly hostile fish.

I know no one. I’m familiar with nothing. I’m comfortable nowhere.

The hallways of my new high school are made of dark brown brick. All of the lockers and doors are vivid red, yellow, and orange. The floor looks of rusty vomit. It’s intensely ugly. And I want to go home.

Allow me to disspell the suspence, I will managed to get through this day without embarrassing myself in any overtly unforgivable manner—I won’t trip down any stairs, or clumsily park myself at the cool kid’s table for lunch; as far as I know, my zipper will stay up all day, my bra straps will remain in place. Nevertheless, I am a black-clad, moody 15 year old who spends too much time listening to Morrisey and The Cure. I am not a happy bunny. I am hormonally disinclined to have a good day. Despite the total lack of calamity or misfortune, I assure you, I will be miserable at the end of it.

And, indeed, by 7th period Advanced Algebra, I’m boiling over with all the loneliness, awkward angst, and depression my glum teenage heart can muster. The teacher hands out 3x5 index cards and asks us to write down all our contact info: parent’s names and work places, phone numbers, our class schedule, the same shit I’ve been writing on similar cards in six other classes all day long. “When you’re done,” she adds, “Flip it over, and write down three things that you like. Just any three things that will help me get to know you a bit better.”

Dipping deep into my bottomless well of discontent, I sneer prettily, and write: Norway, death, and pain.

A month passes. I make a few friends. I tire of The Cure, and, perhaps inspired by the school’s decorative theme? do a whole retro Billy Joel, classic 70’s Genesis thing. Life grows marginally better.

Every Friday the algebra teacher gives us a quick quiz covering the week’s material. One particular Friday my quiz is handed back to me with a big, red ‘0’ where the ‘100% Well done!’ should have been. It confuses me because there were five problems on the quiz and I know I got all five answers right. After the bell rings, I take my big, red ‘0’ to the teacher, and ask her about it.

“You didn’t show your work,” she says.

“Yes I did. Here. And here. And here,” I say pointing to the numbers, and parenthesis, and mathematical whirligigs which I had been lead to believe amounted to work in the algebraic world.

“But it’s the wrong method. It’s not complete,” she sniffs.

“But the answers are right,” I insist.

“But the purpose of the quiz is to demonstrate mastery of the methods I teach.”

“But the answers are right.”

“But you need to show me that you understand why they’re right.”

“I do understand. I understand so much that my answers are all right!”

“But you didn’t follow my instructions.”

“So give me partial credit.”

“I don’t appreciate your attitude, JEDA. It’s disrespectful.”

“I don’t appreciate your ‘0’, teacher. It’s bullshit.”

With that, I storm out of the room. The teacher turns directly to her filing cabinet to retrieve the contact card she collected from me on the first day of school. She wants to talk to my mother about my bad attitude and disrespect. She won’t be having any more of it in her classroom. It’s then that she sees, presumably for the first time, ‘Norway, death, and pain’ scribbled in red like a curse across the back of my card.

I am referred immediately to the school psychologist.

On a disappointingly anti-climatic note, the incident did not go much further than that. I was dragged out of AP European History the next day to be thoroughly probed by the school shrink. When she showed me the card and asked me to explain it, I laughed a genuine, full-throated laugh--rare from a Cure fan, “Dude, I was having a bad day. It was meant to be funny!” Then she asked me why my last name was different than my mother’s last name, and how do I feel about that, then, hmmmm? 

They say you can still hear the sound of my eyes rolling on certain, highly sensative telescopes.

My mother was called, of course. Even in the midst of my darkest teenage fog, she knew me well enough to know that ‘Norway, death, and pain’ really just meant ‘solitude, sarcasm, and hyperbole’ in inscrutable JEDA speak. She wasn’t too worried. All she ever said about it was, “You’ve got a weird sense of humor, my dear. Not everyone is going to get it. You might want to considered holding back every once in a while.”

She was right—on both counts. Unfortunately, I have yet to fully absorb this crutial life's lesson. It seems I might have inadvertently spilled some of my dour humor into Elder Miss’s last homework assignment. There’s a very good chance her teachers aren’t going to get it.

Recently EM has started completing and turning in some of her homework online. Her class has a website where the teachers post links and folders with assignments that open and close according to their due dates. The kids have their own accounts and passwords, so they can log on either at home or at school, complete the assignment, then send it as an e-mail directly to the teacher’s inbox. EM loves these assignments. I don’t blame her. It is pretty cool.

Her assignment this week was to share her three favorite jokes or riddles.

“I don’t get it,” she said after she’d logged on, and read the brief instructions.

“Well, surely you’ve been talking about riddles at school. You’ve heard a few there. Haven’t you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“What do you mean ‘maybe’? Either you have or you haven’t. Which is it?”

“I think so. But I don’t really understand it.” Ah, language issues, which means she tuned it all out, which means she remembers nothing. “Do you know any?” she asked hopefully.

“Ummmmmm. Uhhhhhhhh. No. Or, wait. There’s the one about what’s black and white and red all over. But it only really works in English.”


“Black and white….red all over…..It’s a newspaper, EM. A newspaper.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Well, the pages see. They’re black and white. And they’re read…..sort of?….all over? Not ‘red’ like the color, though it seems like it should be. But ‘read’ like ‘to read’….only yesterday….I…..’read’ the paper..….yesterday………….Oh forget it! Never mind. You’ll just have to tell them that life isn’t funny and you don’t know any jokes.”

So that’s what she did. She wrote “Livet er ikke morsomt”, attached some sort of silly gif of a chicken getting a suntan, then clicked ’send’.

I knew that that’s what she was doing. She even asked, “Should I write that, Mom? Should I say that life isn’t funny?” And I couldn’t stop laughing—cuz’ it’s funny, isn’t it? That an assignment about jokes declares itself to be so tersely unfunny? Isn’t it? So I said, “Yeah, EM. You should totally do it!” And I kept right on laughing—even though EM wasn’t laughing so much—right up until I heard my mother’s voice in my head say, “Not everyone is going to get it.” Then I started to wonder.

EM’s teachers are already worried about her. She spends too many recesses alone with her books. There was an incident right before Christmas where some punk ass kid wrote “EM is dumb” on her desk. Plus, her best friend just moved, and switched schools right after the holidays. The teachers keep me updated. They’re watching her carefully to make sure she doesn’t withdraw any further. What are the chances they see humor in her assignment, rather than signs of increasing introversion?

Mister wasn’t terribly amused either.  He says to expect a call.  Or better yet, that I should call, apologize, and explain.  Pfft.  Like that's going to happen.  I still think it's kind of funny.  But what do I know?  I'm Charlotte sometimes, and the spiderman ate me for dinner long ago.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


At the risk of sounding like one of those fluttery, domineering mothers who would dress her precious baby boy in sailor suits and knee-highs if they were still readily available, I have to admit--I prefer Boy's towhead impishly long and tousled. I'd keep it that way forever, if only he'd let me. Precious baby boys, however, have a selfish habit of growing rather relentlessly up. And mine has recently been nagging me for a "real" haircut, a "big boy" haircut, one performed by someone with a "degree" or whatever. Pfft! Such insufferable vainity! And in a six year old no less! Where will it end?

Nevertheless, being the selfless loving mother that I am, I took him yesterday, and got him his obscenely overpriced, professional haircut.
Humph. At least we can still call it tousled.

On the way out of the parking lot, for some reason (I forget what) I hit the breaks hard enough to jar everyone forward and back pretty roughly. Boy growled from the backseat, "Careful mom! You're messin' up my spikes!"

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Word About The New Year, And Resolutions--Old And New

So here we are...back at the beginning.

Happy New Year everyone!

I made a resolution last year--a secret one. I vowed to publish at least 52 posts for the year--an average of one post per week. Done. Over done! I'm pretty sure that's the first New Year's Resolution I've ever faithfully fulfilled. This makes me righteous and rather awesome, wouldn't you agree?  I see no need to reissue the resolution.  I'm in the habit now, and a post per week should be the very least you all can expect from me from here on out.

I settled on a new resolution early last month.  I was planning to keep this one hush hush too, thus avoiding the crippling pressure of accountability and expectation.  But I managed to get myself a little tipsy New Year's Eve, and found myself blabbing it to the whole party.

"I've decided to read a book--in Norweeeeegian!" I slurred, with wholly unjustifiable hubris.

Our hostess is quite the enthusiastic reader, and before I could say "suckers, I was only kidding" she was up plucking dusty tome after dusty tome off her well-stocked bookshelves.  Norwegian books, by Norwegian authors, in the Norweeeeeegian vernacular....one of them anyway.  After nixing anything old, or mired in too obscure and annoying a dialect, my one-book commitment had turned into three.  Now anytime Mister sees me with a book in my hands, he feels at liberty to ask, "Is it Norwegian?  Is it?  Is it?"  Damn my loose, drunken tongue!

How about you lot?  Any resolutions you care to share with me?  I promise not to throw them back in your faces until Christmas.  It'll give me something write on your Christmas cards, which I do now solemnly resolve to actually write on next year!  I'm still feeling rather guilty about stuffing this year's into an envelope without so much as a signature. 

I took some pictures New Year's Eve.  None of them very good.  It goes without saying that, in addition to all the reading and writing I will be doing over the course of the new year, mastering the art of digital photography will be high on my to-do list.

This is what Boy and his cousin had to say about the fresh crab served to them for dinner:
This is what Elder Miss had to say about the control top panty hose I struggled to squeeze myself into after three weeks of holiday eating:
And this....I have no idea how I did this:
But how freaking cool would that have been if it had been framed properly, and you could she her face and shit!  Next year, people.  I'll get that shot next year!