Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Blight

Spring and Fall
To a Young Child

Márgarét, are you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Last Sunday the Old Testament reading was from Isaiah: "... No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen.." so that sent me right into this poem. Because I am capable of paying attention to anything except the actual Mass. At least I finally achieved my goal of being like Vicky Austin, who can recite "The Blessed Damozel" in her head during church, because I do have "Spring and Fall" memorized (in fact that and "To An Athlete Dying Young" are my only surefire memory pieces).

Tears were absolutely pouring down my cheeks. Why? I mean, we know it's not exactly difficult to open the MomVee faucets, but a navel-gazer like me can't help but stop and ponder this for a moment. Is it because the trees are in fact unleaving right now? Or because I haven't really thought of this poem since I got a Margaret of my very own?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Mighty Girl links to an exhaustive cheat sheet for foiling voice response systems, and spells out a successful (and oddly satisfying) universal strategy.

If you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need

If you are like me, for most of your life you thought of the autoharp as a fake instrument for nursery school teachers and people who are too lazy to learn guitar.

My opinion began to change when I saw a Johnny Cash tribute on TV (not the recent one, but a 1999 TBS one) on which June Carter Cash--70 years old and gorgeous--sang "Ring Of Fire" and accompanied herself on the autoharp. I got more interested when I read Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? and learned that Sara Carter played the autoharp. I decided I would get one, especially since I hate playing electronic keyboards and that was my only possible accompaniment when I lead music activities at school or Scouts. Then I found out that autoharps are really, really expensive. In the meantime I realized that schoolkids and Scouts don't know or care if you are playing D, G and A7 (works better than C, F and G7 for my voice and hands) on every song and I started trundling the guitar around.

I didn't forget about the autoharp, though--it has a special sound that's different from a guitar and it really has a place in Appalachian music, which interests me. (I also have a yen to learn mandolin but talk about expensive. A friend of ours bought a cheap mandolin and warned me away.) So I mentioned it to a friend who is a music minister and she said her church had a closet full of autoharps gathering dust. I got one on permanent loan. The only problem was it was really, really out of tune. I tried tuning it with every socket wrench head in the basement, and then with a combination of pliers and a crescent wrench. Painful and not entirely successful. The autoharp sat in the corner of the sunroom for a couple of years.

And then last week I thought, there has to be a tool for this. Froogle search for "autoharp tuning tool" turned one up at an Amazon affiliate for $2.99. Of course it should be a national law that one of these tuning wrenches is inside every autoharp case but what can you do?

So now my autoharp is tuned and I am practicing strums and singing "This Land Is Your Land," "Who Knows Where I'm Going," "Good Night Irene" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" Only 6 years after the first vague stirring of autoharp lust.

If there's something you need to move your life forward, do me a favor and find out if it only costs $2.99 plus shipping. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I love this

Actor Chris Klein on his ex-girlfriends: "Are we friends? Absolutely. Do we talk? No."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Poets Down Here

Before I begin: I'm sure that both of the people who read my blog are extremely interested in "boat curtains." I must have been drunk when I accepted the Google Adsense offer but I'm too ignorant and lazy to get rid of it.

So I've been listening to "Born To Run" a lot, with all this 30th anniversary hype. R. and I have discovered that we can never do anything original: whenever we do something like get an awesome new turntable or rent five Roy Rogers movies there's an article in the Wall Street Journal the next day saying "Audiophiles Turn Back to Vinyl" or "Three cities feature Roy Rogers film festival this week." So I've decided to just consciously go with the flow. Thus I've been listening to Born To Run (on vinyl, of course).

I bought this album as a Christmas present for my father in 1979, the first year I saved up my money and bought Christmas presents for my friends and family. He gave me "Keep On Doing" by the Roches, and for several years we listened exclusively to each other's presents, perfectly content. Now I own both of them, which I think is emblematic of both my aesthetic development and my father's boundless generosity. For the first 20 years I played only side one, because it features "Born To Run," which you have to like if you're from New Jersey; "She's The One," which has suggestive lyrics that fascinated me as a ten-year-old; and "Jungleland," which I think I can safely say is the most beautiful Bruce Springsteen song.* You can tell because side one is somewhat scratchy and poppy but side two is still pristine. And what I have discovered in the past 5-6 years, since I saw Bruce in concert, is that I was cheating myself out of "Thunder Road," which is almost as gorgeous as "Jungleland."

So we were playing the album this weekend and I was singing along with Jungleland and not-so-big-R. asked, "What is this song about?" It stopped me in my tracks. Here was Mr. "I never know the lyrics to songs or even the characters' names in a movie," asking Ms. "I will do a close reading of anything, hand over that poem," what a song was about and I had no idea and had never thought about it. I cleared my throat. "Um, gang war?" "But what's this about flashing guitars just like switchblades?" "I don't know," I mumbled. "I like the part about the opera out on the Turnpike."

Right now, in the quiet of the morning, if I had to write a timed essay about it I think I'd go with the transcendent nature of art. But do you have any ideas, constant readers?

*Not necessarily my favorite Bruce Sprinsteen song, because there's also "Hungry Heart," "Glory Days," and "Rosalita." I was explaining to R. that I always think of "Rosalita" at Thanksgiving because these two lyrics make me feel hopeful and trimumphant in exactly the same way:

"So from the beginning/The fight we were winning/
Thou, Lord, wast at our side/All glory be thine." (We Gather Together)

"And your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money
Tell him this is last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance
Because a record company Rosie just gave me a big advance." (Rosalita)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Warning: Child Anecdotes

Things M. has said lately:

She runs into the kitchen
M: Mommy! Maybe someday we could get married!

This afternoon in the driveway:
M: What did you do to the garage?
MV: I cleaned it.
M: But why did you put the car in there?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

How long 'til my soul gets it right?

My mother thinks M. is the reincarnation of her mother, my Grammie. For starters, because she is bossy and complains a lot (we say this out of love). Also because she has more than once said to my mother, "When you were a little girl, was I your mommy?" My mother said yes, incidentally. Way to cooperate with the Catholicism, Mother.

More spookily, Grammie hated the song "Kookaburra." R. and S. love it, and we frequently sing it as a round at bedtime. But one of M.'s first sentences was a passionate, "No! No gum tree!"

The other day, sitting in traffic, I reflected on how much I hate white cars. Then I thought about how my grandmother loved white cars. When her stepfather bought her her very first car, they couldn't find a white one, so he bought a maroon one and had it painted white (that must have taken a lot of coats). So I idly asked, "M., what color cars do you like?" She sat up, took her finger out of her mouth, and said firmly, "White."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Adequate Homes and Gardens

I have a new game I like to play in my head. I like to read home decorating articles (unless I'm going through one of the stages in which I forswear magazines because they depress me and make me discontented and inclined to buy things). The best ones are those that describe the decor in a given family's (or couple's) home. It's even better when one or more of the homeowners is a professional--architect, designer, etc. They always have these incredibly complex aesthetic reasons for doing everything, reasons that make you believe that you, too, should hang a rusty gate on your dining room wall.

I've been doing a lot of redecorating lately because my extended in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving. I say my extended in-laws because my mother-in-law and father-in-law have been here many times and have already formed an opinion of my decor for good or ill; but not-so-big-R.'s grandmother is coming for the first time ever and for some reason this is making me insane. Anyway, I haven't done anything as drastic as painting or wallpapering, but I have: framed and/or hung a whole bunch of pictures that were hanging around for years; put new knobs on the kitchen cabinets; literally kicked(or at least pushed with my knee, part of the time) our particleboard entertainment center to the literal curb (and inadvertently damaged the phono preamp in the process, sigh); and made new kitchen curtains.

You're wondering about the new game. Basically, while I do these things, and especially as I scan with my eyes the things I cannot change about my house by Thanksgiving, I write random lines from the magazine article about my decor:

"In addition to choosing an antique-look Waverly fabric for her kitchen curtains, MomVee added to the country effect by sewing radically wrong rod pockets, subsequently ripping out the old seams and leaving charming random threads, snags and tiny holes in the material."

"Although she replaced the particleboard entertainment center, MomVee chose to keep the particleboard corner TV cabinet.'We think it's important for the kids to remember their roots,' MomVee explained. 'And I think it's a touch of early-marriage, new-homeowner style that keeps our decor lighthearted and fun.'"

"MomVee always keeps a heaping basket of unfolded laundry somewhere in the main living area. 'It helps demonstrate that life--what takes place in the living room--is composed of work and play. Besides, I love all the different colors and textures in a basket of clean laundry.'"

Try it at home!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Clearly Target and I are not meant to be together

So, I did a search at Target for "shot glasses" (none of your business)*, and after all the results you would expect it said this:

VIDEOS brought to you by No items match "shot glasses." These results are for "stott."

Ohhh...kay. What if everyone started doing this? "MomVee, this is not-so-little-R.'s teacher. I've never heard of this book The Fellowship of the Ring, so I graded his book report as if it were on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Or, actually, "I graded his book report as if it were on Snarfblatt," because last time I checked "stott" was not something a lot of people were searching for.

*All right, I was searching because Not Martha linked to someone who said that Target has candy cane shot glasses in the dollar bins, and I foolishly thought maybe dollar bin merchandise would be online. Also from Megan, the Charlie Brown pathetic tree. The irony of commercializing the Charlie Brown pathetic tree is making me dizzy. Leave it to Urban Outfitters.

Speaking of irony, not-so-little-R.'s teacher did tell me she knew immediately what kind of child she was dealing with when his "what I did this summer" composition included the word "ironically." Apparently that's not a typical usage in fourth grade. She also told me he needs to get over his bad attitude about group work. I managed not to share my feelings about group work.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dear God, You have _got_ to be kidding me. Love, MomVee

On Monday S. had her annual checkup and the pediatrician heard a heart murmur he never noticed before. It's probably nothing, but we have to go to the cardiologist. The same cardiologist to whom I gaily shouted, "See you in a year!" last week after M.'s appointment.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I got this idea from Voir Dire Subculture:

Type your name with the word "needs" after it into a search engine and see what comes up.

Vera needs your help. Defending human rights in Malawi.
Vera needs to find out the cost.
Vera needs sugar. She wants her name in peppermint frosting.
Aloe vera needs dry and arid conditions so it's best grown in a pot where control over the conditions can be achieved.
Since Vera needs a reliable car, she asks her bank about auto loan rates.
VERA needs to develop an effective. mechanism for gathering learning;
all Vera needs is some warmth and acknowledgement

Cat Humor


Communication Breakthrough

It is possible:

Greetings from

I've reviewed our previous correspondence, and I'm sorry for any
misunderstanding thus far.

I've requested a refund for $189.23 to your credit card.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dear Target Customer: I guess I'll just have a sweet roll

or, Why Target Customer Service Reps Can't Read

Back in August, I ordered a wedding present from a Target registry. Soon after, I learned to my distress that the couple in question had moved to a completely different city some time before and had not bothered to update their registry address.

I have been engaged in a rapid downhill correspondence with Target ever since. The first e-mail exchange was promising:
MomVee: blah blah blah present blah address
Target: No problem, the people who live there now will probably send it back (I doubted it); but if they haven't done that by September 19th, go to this link and let us know and we'll refund your money anyway.

So after September 19th:
MomVee: It's now past September 19th and as per your e-mail instructions pasted in below I'm letting you know blah blah blah
Target: I see that the items in order #!@#$%$&%$*%& were delivered on August 4th! You can track your order blah blah blah.
MomVee: No, no, no! Relevant passages from old e-mails, plea to actually read mine.
Target: Silence
MomVee: Hey, are you ever going to do anything about this situation? Explanation, explanation, plea to look at all customer service messages about this order number for more info.
Target: (actual text)
Greetings from

Thanks for letting us know that this package did not reach your
recipient because of a problem with the shipping address. If a
package can't be delivered, the shipper should return it to us. When
we receive the returned package, we'll issue a refund to your credit
card and send you an e-mail confirmation.

Friday, November 04, 2005

A Great Line

Unfortunately, I can't remember the specific situation that brought this to the top of my consciousness (probably a politician soundbite); but I love this zinger from Duke Frederick in As You Like It. He tasks Oliver with finding his fugitive brother Orlando, and threatens to seize all his property if he can't bring him to justice within a year. Oliver protests:

Oliver O that your highness knew my heart in this!
I never lov’d my brother in my life.
Duke F. More villain thou.

I use this line (in my head) all the time. Also my own private variation, "More idiot thou."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

This Is An Amazing Resource

If you could figure out an efficient way to search it.

Folklore and Mythology: Electronic Texts

Halloween Roundup

Just Call Me "Booge"

Don't get me wrong, there are many things I like about Halloween. I enjoy helping my kids with their costumes; I like to wear a little whimsical something myself. I adore candy. I have a compulsion to buy any decorative item that features black cats with their backs arched.

But I don't like answering the door a bazillion times between 5 and 9 pm. If you are a mother, or certainly if you are I (grammar?), between 5 and 9 pm you are helping people put their costumes on, making dinner, straightening up the living room, checking homework, fielding phone calls, putting children to bed...often simultaneously. I have to keep reminding myself that I will get to see the adorable children in their costumes and give them my carefully chosen treats (carefully chosen to be totally unappealing to me so there will be any treats left by nightfall).

Winners last night: twin Marilyn Monroes.

Throwing Stuff Away Update

Last year Santa (nudge nudge, wink wink) fell in love with some inflatable Tiki heads at the dollar store. Both R.'s and Uncle S. got them in their stockings and were distinctly underwhelmed. They floated around the house for a while. Then in my current frenzy I went through not-so-little R.'s desk and threw away with joyful abandon.

On Sunday, before the parade, I thought R.'s Indiana Jones costume could use a finishing touch, in addition to the hat, jacket, whip and gun. An idol, like the one he takes at the beginning of "Raiders"! The tiki! I went upstairs with a heavy heart, hoping against hope that I had not thrown away the tiki, but it seemed likely, especially since it was a painful reminder of a failed gift.

But no, at least one tiki was still kicking around (in not-so-big R.'s study, where things go to stay alive forever)!

Now I can toss it. I think.

How Siblings Can Differ

Last night, in lieu of a truly spooky story, I read my children Stephen Vincent Benet's The King of the Cats, one of my all-time favorites. It has an extremely elevated vocabulary and arch style, and I wondered about a quarter of the way through whether they were getting it. Being polite children, they didn't interrupt. M. fell asleep. When I finished, S. said, "That was a great story," nestled into the pillow, and was heard from no more.

Not-so-little R. was completely terrorized, afraid to go anywhere in the house alone, and asked me to please never say "Then I'm the King of the Cats!" ever, ever again.

And Now For Something Really Scary

M. has her every-nine-months cardiologist appointment today. I could use everyone's psychic help in remembering to breathe while driving there.