Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hoppin' Down the Bunny Trail

In my childhood, one of my nicknames was St. Francis.

We weren't Catholic. I rarely wore brown robes. I earned this nickname because all animals flocked to me, especially the ones who weren't entirely certain whom to call "Mom" or "Can opener." It's still true.

In my world, stray puppies inch under my table and only my table at outdoor restaurants. Cats jump into my car when I'm washing it in the driveway. Strangers walk up to me in the street holding out a paper bag and say, "I'm moving to Guam, do you want this hamster?" Think I'm exaggerating? At one of my readings for "Notes From The Underwire", I was sitting at a fold-up table, happily signing books when I felt a "Whoosh" past my face and then a small "Thump" in my lap. I looked down to see a baby bird, taking his first flight out of the nest, detoured to the O'Hare of all feral flight-plans: me. The bird was startled. I wasn't.

Last Sunday, I was taking a walk around the nabe when I saw a couple and their small daughter. The parents were chasing after their toddler who was in hot pursuit of a stone on someone's yard. Upon closer inspection, I saw the stone was, in fact, a domesticated rabbit. The baby got close and shrieked in delight. The rabbit continued eating clover in a rabbit sort of way. Eventually, the family went on its way but I inched closer to examine the bunny. This was definitely a bunny, as opposed to a wild rabbit. It allowed me to get within a foot or so of it before caroming off towards more clover. It eyed me neutrally. I said aloud, "You take care of yourself, little rabbit." This was, of course, not possible; domesticated rabbits on the streets last until they don't. Something eats them, or something hits them. I'm not happy about this, but it wasn't in my yard and it wasn't my responsibility. Honesty demands I admit to feeling nothing but relief over that. I went on my merry way.

Yesterday morning, I had to do a favor for someone. I start with this not because I need the approval, but it was a boring and onerous favor and I got back to my house in a "Well, I'm certainly eating carbs and putting Quinn first for the next hour" sort of mood. So you'll imagine my emotional state when I saw the rabbit on my front steps. And you'll certainly understand my horror when the rabbit, upon seeing me, hopped towards me purposefully.

Rabbits can't convey much by way of the more subtle emotional states but this encounter did have the feeling of a reunion of family members separated by war. He sat on my foot in what appeared to be delight. I tentatively touched his ear. He fell over on to my ankle and nuzzled my instep. He had walked two blocks and crossed a street to sit in my yard and make me swear.

Let me sum up the next hour: Get cat carrier, fill cat carrier. Go to rescue group. It's a boy! My, it certainly is a boy, isn't it? Get greens from rescue group. Get hay from rescue group. Get in car. Take first Benadryl. Go home. Set up temporary cage. Take first picture for pleading email. Send pleading email. Take second Benadryl. You've noted the Benadryl. I'm allergic to rabbits. I've been told I'm not allergic to rabbits but to the hay. But since it's not a rabbit without hay, and since even touching the rabbit and then unconsciously flicking my bangs back caused a red itchy welt on my forehead, it's safe to say this story isn't going to end with "Oh, what the hell. Let's keep him." So he can't stay. But neither can he go.

The rescue group I work with is licenced to have no more than six rabbits; we have six rabbits. All rabbit-rescue groups are full. If I put him in the city shelter he'll be dead in a week. I have no room for this. I'm writing a book. I'm home-schooling my daughter. I'm toying with buying nicer towels. And now, it would appear, I'm keeping a rabbit for a week to see if someone puts up a "Lost Rabbit" sign, and then I'm in the rabbit-placing business.

Someone get me a Bendadryl.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Found a Million Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten-Cent Store

I do something odd.

Yes, of course, I do many things which are odd and that is why people either really like me or let my calls go to voice-mail, but we shall speak of a specific oddity today. Lately, I looked entirely too happy while doing chores around the house. Emptying the dishwasher or putting clothing on the drying rack rarely brings out small private smiles and humming unless you’re drugged, which I’m not, no matter how many times I explain to a doctor how drugging me might cause fewer people to let my calls to go voice-mail. Here’s where all the happy stems from.

I dislike nearly every thing I own. I have disgust for my dishes. I loathe my linens. I have a grievance with my glasses and so on. For some items, I liked them when I bought them but that was a long time ago. Others, I inherited and thought “Don’t love it but it will work until it wears out and I can justify buying something I like.” And then we had a child and the child had needs and the needs had payment schedules and I have made do. [Consort hates that phrase, “Make do.” He swears it sounds fecal. We won’t tell him I used it.]

For years, interacting with these items made me feel awful because...well, let’s consider our sheets. The sheets have a perfectly adequate thread-count but the fitted sheets and the top sheets don’t exactly match because there was a big sale and I went for thread count and not matching. The only matching set on deep discount which would fit on our bed had a tiger print with a background of orange, proving there is something worse than the phrase “Making do.”

Every week, I’m confronted with the terrible truth that the sheets are good enough and that I can have a coordinated bed or I can have a daughter with straight teeth. I just heard one of you pipe in. “Go to Target!” you caroled. “Spend a little money and get what you like! It’ll hold you until you can get more expensive stuff!” That’s how I got my bathroom towels.

At what point did mid-price towels stop absorbing water? I just know those high-end towels do more than weakly blot before gasp-whispering "Couldn’t possibly drink in any more.” When I step out of the shower, Squeakers the cat lunges in to the bathroom and sets to licking my ankles. It’s weird and I’d stop her but she removes more water than my towels do. So I continue to use, launder and re-use these towels. I also continue to scowl because I’m grown and without ever putting it into words I always assumed part of being grown is having better stuff. I have grad-student stuff. I am done with making do, and yet I continue to make with the do.

A few weeks ago, I was emptying the dishwasher and confronting my least favorite coffee cup. The drycleaners gave us this cup for Christmas two years ago and I’m very tired of looking at their dorky logo while I wait for my water to boil. Still, I can’t give it up because there’s nothing wrong with it besides the small chip in the handle and how it fills me with despair. I said out loud, “I win the lottery, you are so out of here.” Instantly, my mood brightened. I put away the blameless salad plates I so despise and thought, That lottery money won’t even be in the bank before I get rid of you.

The dishwasher was emptied in a trice. I looked around the kitchen with new, joyous eyes. Coffee-maker which works fine but burps? See ya. The napkins which never exactly matched the walls? Someone will love you. Someone far away. The hanging baskets which work fine unless the barometric pressure changes or they’re feeling a little emotional at which point they tip over? Go deposit bananas and vitamins on another head, pal.

There are a couple of flaws to this new attitude. First, I don’t actually play the lottery but from what I understand of odds that means I’m only slightly less likely to win than any given player. Second, were I to suddenly swim in money while wearing a bathing-suit made of money, I’d end up looking at my serviceable-yet-crappy stuff and think “Let’s just give that money to the Red Cross for Japan. And Japanese animal-rescue. And American animal-rescue. And educate a few hundred girls in Afghanistan. And feed some American kids who don’t have food security.”

I’m not placing any halo on myself, I just know what actual money would do to my conscience and there’s no towel so expensive it could absorb that guilt. I’d make do and write checks. I’d hate my blender but could sleep. But in my imagination, I’m throwing about 85% of the items in my house into Hefty bags and taking them to Goodwill. I’m removing them from my car -- Wait, I hate my car. I’m removing them from my new car. Or possibly my personal assistant is doing that for me.

In my imagination, I’m laughing a rich tinkling little laugh as I head to all those lovely stores where everything matches and a coffee cup, upon developing a chip, softly implodes into ceramic dust .

In reality, I fold laundry and smile a contented and wealthy smile.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Now I Don't Claim to be an A Student

I promise you, this is the last book-related blog post for a while. But when I looked down at the side of my bed, I noted there were no fewer than eleven books on homeschooling and American educational policy. Some of them are written to appeal to and enlighten the masses. The other nine are written in a typeface last seen on a book in a dollhouse and allude to even more books I'll have to buy, partially because of my new habit of highlighting and partially because no library in Los Angeles carries them because Los Angeles thinks books which bore you into an educated stupor are icky and scary. We like love-triangles and vampires.

Most of this new information I'm gathering won't actually enter the new book, but I must know the background to be able to speak coherently of the foreground. I guess. Or I just like buying books from Amazon that, on the popularity list, are 3,000,000th. But at least this pile of densely-printed accumulated wisdom has solved one problem for me:

For Halloween this year, I'll be going as a policy wonk.

Monday, March 21, 2011

You're Livin' In the Past It's a New Generation

Daughter wandered up to me a few minutes ago.

"Today," she noted, "you were either organizing tax paperwork, or writing a questionnaire or talking to the phone company."

"Also filling out your camp forms and spending a half-hour finding your vaccination records," I said, yawning, "but in a few minutes I'll be done and then I'll relax, just fold a little laundry and watch that documentary I've been dying to see about Enron."

I glanced at her and saw the look she had on her face before she could compose it into something more politic. The look which said How many glasses of milk do I have to avoid to never actually become an adult?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Here I Go Again

It would appear I'm about to write another book.

Thanks to Kate Garrick (the wonderful agent I have because of the incandescently glorious Jen Lancaster) and the lovely people at Penguin, I'm going to write a book about our first year of homeschooling, contrasted against the larger homeschooling community, a place which is wider, more fascinating and in some cases much weirder than most outsiders can even imagine.

I've already done some research. I mean, besides living my homeschool life and relearning to factor polynomials.

[Fine. Learning to factor polynomials. I swear they didn't have those when I was a child.]

But now comes the fun part. Now that the book is official, I come to you with a request; if you homeschool, I want to hear from you. If you're Muslim and homeschool, if you're a rural family and you homeschool, if you're a homeschool family who travels the country Morris-dancing, if you are homeschooling, I want to hear from you. If you want to tell me about your homeschool experience, you can leave me a comment with your email and just indicate it's private.

Homeschooling in America is done by millions of people and is growing at a rate of 10% annually; whether you think it's a wonderful idea or the end of society as we know it, it's too big to just be a punch-line any more. I hope to write a book that even people who are child-free find compelling and engaging, because people who are passionate are usually interesting and I have yet to meet any kind of homeschooling family who wasn't passionate.

And then there will be the parts about my life as a homeschooler, to provide moments of low comedy and inappropriate outbursts.

As of now, it's called "Homeschool Confidential" and a tentative publication date in 2012. Later will come the begging for pre-orders and the moaning about how much I hate getting an author's picture taken. Now, there is enjoying this moment with you and starting what I hope will be very interesting conversations.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

PEOPLE OF THE INTERNET AND OUTLYING AREAS: Before you forward an email with a threat to our health or a Muslim plot or a cunning way to bring down gas prices or a whimsical story of how the phrase "It's raining cats and dogs" came into being, could you do me a favor?


Go to Ignore the flashing ads and the pop-ups, they're really quite awful, but snopes will provide you the great gift of telling you whether this story has anything whatsoever to do with truth. And with one click, you will know the email you sent is eight years old and the little boy who wanted birthday cards has been free of cancer for years. And you will not forward that email and someone won't forward it after you. It'll be as if you stopped a stupid but pernicious cold. And maybe if enough people do this, some day we'll live in a world where the only lies in our inbox will be from our alumni magazines.