Dear Tania

In honor of Blog 365's theme for April, which is Letters, and in service to one of my lifelong dreams, I'd like to devote the next 30 days to creating an advice column of my own: The Hard Truth. If you'd like your letter answered here--anonymously--please write me at Tania@taniarochelle.com. I'll answer at least one a day, and readers may add to or dispute my answers in the comments.


Family Bible

Get thee to a bookstore to buy my friend Melissa Delbridge's new raw and elegant memoir, just out from Sightline Books.

More info at the University of Iowa Press website:

Excerpt from Family Bible:

When my father came back out to the car with a sack under his arm and got situated beside me, I asked him, "Daddy, what do people do in the Jungle Club?"

My mother answered for him in her Liz Taylor-doing-Tennessee Williams voice, moving her lips in an exaggerated manner and speaking through clenched teeth. "Oh, they just sit around drinking and telling lies and slipping their hands up their buddies' wives' skirts. And darling, your daddy's just about the best person in Tuscaloosa County you could ask that particular question."


Saturday Things You Might Not Know

Because Lo has a Band-Aid fetish and went through about two boxes this week, I got to wondering a little about the history.

From Wikipedia:

The Band-Aid was invented in 1920 by Earle Dickson, an employee of Johnson & Johnson, for his wife Josephine, who frequently cut and burned herself while cooking.[2][3] The prototype product allowed his wife to dress her wounds without assistance. Dickson, a Highland Park, New Jersey, resident at the time, passed the idea on to his employer who then went on to produce and market the product as the Band-Aid. Dickson had a successful career at Johnson & Johnson eventually becoming a Vice President before his retirement in 1957.

The first bandages produced were hand-made and not very popular. By 1924, Johnson & Johnson introduced the first machine that produced sterilized Band-Aids. In World War II, millions of Band-Aid bandages were shipped overseas. In 1951 the first decorative Band-Aids were introduced to the market. They continue to be a commercial success today with decorative themes such as Superman, Spiderman, Spongebob Squarepants, Smiley Faces, and Batman.


Friday Nostalgia

View the slideshow.

Let This Be A Lesson To Us All

When Cary Tennis took over Garrison Keillor's advice column on Salon a few years ago, I mourned the loss of my beloved Mr. Blue. Like most people, I have a tendency to resist change. But I gave Tennis a chance and like him half the time. A recovering alcoholic writer who finds a way to make everything about himself, Tennis is someone I can identify with.

Yesterday's post was an example of Tennis at his very best and worst--the shiny ball of foil, icing and congealed meat fat all smashed up in it. The letter writer was a woman who had married the first guy she ever slept with and now, a few years later, is noticing for the first time how short he is (and his growing belly) and how much she's attracted to tall men. This was her only complaint about her husband. She admitted he is sweet, loving, makes a good living, will be a great father, etc.,

Tennis's response was such a surprise. Usually, he is "fair" and "kind" to an annoying degree. You want him to smack the person, but he kisses them on the forehead and strokes their hair. This time, though, he struck with such venom, I'm convinced he must be five feet tall. I was so tickled by what he wrote, I could hardly wait to blog about it. But last night, when I finally had the chance, I discovered the entry had been removed, with the excuse that a mistake had been made and the letter writer hadn't authorized its publication.

Well shit. The way I see it, you write to an advice columnist, that's that. Your letter is fair game. Salon is a bunch of pussies for pulling it.


Here is part of her letter and the bigger part of Tennis's response, posted by a quicker blogger than I:

She writes:

"And all this time, I never noticed how short he is. Now I notice it every day. He’s one of the shortest guys I know. It eats at me now, how short he is. I don’t want to introduce him to my friends or my co-workers. (It doesn’t help that my friends married some really tall, handsome men.) Bottom line: I’m not attracted to him anymore. And for some odd reason, I find myself ogling men on the train, especially tall ones."

Cary responds:

"If your husband really cared, he would grow a few inches. Many husbands start out short. That is no excuse. Perhaps he is obstinate. See if you can break his will. He will point to scientific evidence. Such arguments are very common, particularly in the shorter countries. If a husband insists on remaining short, a taller man must step in. It is a law of nature. Soon the shorter man will see his wife dancing, her chin nuzzling a new and taller man's pectorals, which are flat, hard and prominent, not so prominent as to be titlike, but prominent enough to signal animal vigor. The old husband witnesses this with a deep and painful sense of loss. He realizes then, "I should have grown taller when I had the chance." But it is too late. Many claim they can't grow taller. Not only the slumbering, slobbering public, barely able to tie its shoes, but also doctors and "men of science" will say that. But as any reader of comic books or the Internet knows, there are many ways a man can grow taller. A man can also grow "bigger." But do men bother? On the whole, no. They prefer to remain short, small and fat.
Growth is part of marriage. We all know that. I was only 4 feet 9 when I married. Now I must be 6 feet 5 at least."


Dark Shadows DVD Collection

Did I mention what Mamoo gave me for my birthday? I know--I've written about it before, but now I'm just trying to make you jealous.


Bad Commercial Hall of Fame

This commercial must have been written by a man. It's like one of those horrible persona poems where someone writes from the perspective of someone he or she couldn't possibly REALLY identify with. Once, one of my classmates in grad school--a big guy from the hills of West Virginia who was otherwise a wonderful poet, wrote such a beast about a twelve-year-old Indian girl sold into sexual slavery. Trust me when I say the poem was about as authentic as Priscilla Presley's face.

I wish I'd seen the guy pitch this: We'll have a woman read aloud from the journal entry she's just finished writing and then talk about what she just read aloud. Man, I've nailed this character, and she's someone women can relate to: she's an artist who eats Kashi, does scrapbooking, and is a member of two book clubs. She wears Naturalizers and tries to walk at least three times a week. She loves Emily Dickenson, the African djembe, and expression dancing. She leads a workshop called "Creating Sacred Spaces" at the local prison and checks her breasts monthly.

If any of my former students had anything to do with this, you'd better make sure I never find out. Howard?


Spring Break

Georgia came home Friday, a couple of days early from her Spring Break trip to Florida. She went with her beau Blaise and some of his fraternity brothers, some of whom brought SO's and some of whom were single-free-n-easy. I knew what was in store for my daughter, and I think she knew as well, but the reality is (boys are) ALWAYS so much worse than you imagine.

I enjoyed a half-hour rant about guys puking, peeing themselves, and passing out that began from the time she came through the door until the time we started our jog at the river and our attention turned to dogs and anorexics. 

**It's worth noting that she had nothing ill to say about Blaise, who apparently conducted himself as a gentleman and kept her entertained during the sleep-deprived days. The most important thing to his credit, though, is he got her out of there before her evil twin was forced out of hiding.

That said, here's a small rant-sample:

Georgia: I think I handled the week pretty well, really. 

TR: Did you hurt anyone?

George: No. I came close when I caught some random hoes in the kitchen at 3 a.m. making grilled cheese sandwiches with MY food. You don't mess with my FOOD!

TR: So they were picking up girls and bringing them back to the house?

Georgia: Yeah, sometimes. But more often, they'd bring back strange dudes they met while they were out. One night, some stranger came upstairs to use our bathroom and I told him to get out. So C shouted, "Georgia, you're such a vagina!" and I yelled, " You just picked up ten guys at the bar. You tell me--WHO'S THE VAGINA?!"


Madonna at Easter

Saturday, Mamoo brought Madonna (above) to Lola's softball game. No doubt, looking at the still picture is making you wonder, Why? Why would Mamoo ever take such a hideous creature out in public? Or, maybe your first thought was, Poor little thing; how long has it been dead?

But once you see her alive and in action, the devil incarnate, you too will question Mamoo's motives for taking the "dog" out to a park full of children.

The Easter Bunny Slept Here


Friday Nostalgia

That Girl, starring Marlo Thomas, ran from 1966 to 1977, and I watched it religiously as a child. I wanted to be That Girl.
This morning, while watching this clip for the first time in years and years, suddenly a lot of things made sense.


Big Plans For Friday Night

I left Lo's softball game tonight while the coaches and refs were still haggling over a questionable call and went straight over to the high school to pick Jack up from practice, just so I could sit in the parking lot waiting for him for twenty minutes, which is fine, for such is my lot in life...

Before my son's butt hits the bucket seat, he starts screaming about the heat being on full blast and then busts me for being wrapped in a blanket. After he adjusts the temperature and the radio to his liking, I ask if he'd like to drive, since he needs the practice, to which he responds, "Not THIS car," because we all know if he were to drive--even the two miles to our house--a red VW Beetle, he would instantly know all the words to "It's Raining Men."

On the road, he informed me that tomorrow, he, BT and Julian were planning to go to Noonday Park to ride their bikes. I just stared at him:

JackMan: WHAT?!

TR: (Raises eyebrows) Tomorrow?

JackMan: Yeah, it's supposed to be nice--AAAH, it's your birthday!

TR: (Again with the eyebrows)

JackMan: Dammit!

TR: You're going to go eat pizza with us.

JackMan: Oh My God! I hate to go out! [with y'all]


JackMan: Big deal--what have you had, like 50 of them? Don't make me go and I won't make you come to mine.

TR: I wouldn't miss your birthday dinner. I gave birth to you. Your birthday is really more about me than it is about you.

JackMan: EXACTLY! And yours is more about Mamoo. So you and Mamoo should go.

TR: Oh, yeah. Mamoo and Granny are coming. You'll be in charge of Granny's walker.

For the First Day of Spring, A Poem by Lucille Clifton

Let There Be New Flowering

let there be new flowering
in the fields let the fields
turn mellow for the men
let the men keep tender
through the time let the time
be wrested from the war
let the war be won
let love be
at the end


One For the Scrapbook

Biggy's ER bill

Today's Youth!

A couple of weeks ago, I went through another round of 'What's-The-World-Coming-To?' This time it was on the grad List-Serve for the MFA program I attended--an epic thread of no-one-reads-anymore-kids-don't-appreciate-anything-it's-all-about-money good-old-days-ness that any reader here knows I detest. I love hearing about how great things USED to be. Segregation, anyone? Women as property? Throwing Christians to the lions? How about a good, old-fashioned witch hunt?

So I was delighted to see, on my friend (and fabulous poet) John Guzlowski's blog, a video made by students at a high school he spoke at recently, which further reinforces my argument that the young people today are creative, communicative, and working toward a better future. At least as much as they (or we) ever were.

The young producer/director, Joey Slater, asked John to be in the film. John's the one who's a little older.


Today's Today Show Discussion

This morning, before Biggy left for work, in-between arguing over who should put the new garbage bag in the can and who should unload the dishwasher, we saw a segment on the Today Show about the dangers of common household cleaners, etc. to children. A woman they interviewed was explaining how her child managed to get into a product that was out of reach (she thought) on a shelf:

TR: Well, Jeez, where was SHE when the kid was getting the bottle?

Biggy: Yeah, if she's not more careful, her three-year-old could get a pair of scissors and cut off all her hair.

TR: Or her one-year-old could find a match, light it, and burn her thumb.

Biggy: I gave her that match. I was standing right there.


You Are All Invited

to visit Lola's new blog, which is also linked in the list of places I like to visit, on the left. Just so you know, sometimes she will dictate and I will type (as was the case with the first post), but sometimes she'll be on her own, and you'll be forced to translate. Either way, the words will be all hers.

They grow up so fast.


Second-Grade Dramz

When I saw Lo on Friday, she was about to bust a gut to tell me the following tale of intrigue. Note: The children's names have been changed, mostly to protect the guilty.

Lo: Mom, have I got a story to tell YOU! Stop looking at the computer and listen. Everybody always thinks Violet is so good. She never gets in any trouble. But today at school, she got caught stealing. Yeah, she's not so good after all.

TR: How did she get caught?

Lo: We've been missing so much stuff, and Amanda couldn't find her Webkinz--and she hadn't even LOGGED IT IN yet, so that was the last straw. Ms. C said she was going to check everybody's bags. Right then, Violet started hiding in the curtains and walking around the room--and then she did something stupid--really stupid--INCREDIBLY stupid. All right, what she did--she opened up her book bag thinking no one was watching and said, "Here's the webkinz right here! I found it!"

So Ms. C said, "Where was it?" and Harris said, "In her backpack." Then Ms. C looked through Violet's bag and found the box with the mechanical pencil, Kool-Aid packet, and Smarties that was supposed to be the prize for whoever found the most words in Leprechaun Gold.

And there was a ton of pencils too. We're always running out of pencils. A ton of them in her cubby, too, and Ms. C said, "Violet. why do you have all these pencils?" and Violet said, "Um, I didn't put them there..."

You know my missing library book you had to pay for? She took that too.

TR: Really? They found it in her backpack? I paid ten dollars...

Lo: No, but still. I'm sure she took it--and my crayons. And my snacks. She's our Table Captain, but now, all that's going to change.

TR: Is she poor, Lo?

Lo: No, she's Indian-ish.

TR: Huh? What does her being Indian have to do with it?

Lo: She's not poor. She doesn't even have an accent or anything. Anyway, so Ms. C sent her to Mrs. Huck's room and told me to go get a behavior sheet from the office...

TR: Why does Ms. C always let you do that?

Lo: Because I like it. Then I brought it back and she asked me to get Violet's parents' phone number. Then she goes and calls and comes back with Violet and tells Violet to go to Mrs. Huck's room, but we all saw Violet running around outside.

Then we watched a movie and no one sat next to her--of course. Then we went to specials and when we got back, Violet's father was there. He was real calm. He didn't freak out like you and Dad would have.

TR: I don't freak out.

Lo: Whatever. Anyway, after they left, we had a class meeting and Ms. C said that she'd better not see any of us being mean or not playing with Violet or not talking to her. She said everyone makes mistakes.

TR: That's true, Lo. Besides there must be some reason she felt compelled to take all that stuff.

Lo: Yeah, because she WANTED it. Ha! I'm never playing with her again. I'm going to be Table Captain too. You wait and see.


It Should Be So Easy For the Rest of Us

Yesterday, Biggy was out riding his longboard and teaching Lo to skate on it. By the time I went out to snap some pics of the action, they were already heading up the hill to home.

Here is a picture of Lo begging her dad to buy her a longboard of her own:

And here is a picture of Lo, today, on her new longboard:

Let Me Have My Delusions!

It is a dreary Wuthering Heights kind of day around here. Here's a sample of the conversations going on in this house:

This morning, when Biggy and Lo were leaving to get her softball pictures made:

Biggy: Sure you don't want to come with us? You know, the mothers usually go.

TR: Those other mothers aren't famous writers who need to post a blog.

Biggy: Yeah, they probably keep the house clean too.


While play-fighting and proving to my husband that I can always reach his junk:

Biggy: Go ahead. There's not a judge in the world who'd convict me...(jabbing at my face, jabbing at my head)

TR: You go ahead. I'd never have to work again.

Biggy: Like they'd ever find your body. I watch the crime shows.

TR: Do you have any idea what kind of hell your life would be with me haunting you? I've watched The Ring and Blair Witch.

E! can testify to the number of times he asks every day:

Biggy: Do you know where my glasses are?

TR: OH MY GOD! I'm so sick of that question! Why don't you just tie them on a string around your neck like all the other old men do?!

Biggy: I bet my second wife will be nicer to me.

Saturday Things You Might Not Know

You might not know about this.


Friday Nostalgia

Remember this from the early 90's?


GS Cookie Season!

Even though I don't eat them, I always buy multiple boxes to enjoy vicariously. I ordered back in early February from a sweet little girl in our neighborhood. Yesterday, while I was still at work, she showed up at the door and told E!, "I want my money." Anyway, E! swears that's how it went down.


The Wonders of Technology

Lo was playing with this text messaging gadget in the backseat on the way home from school yesterday when her friend L--also in the car-- asked her what it was. Not known for her patience with questions, Lo brushed him off with a quick mumbled explanation. Excited by what he heard, L told her, "Tex mex your dad. Tell him he's a knucklehead. Tell him that."

Well, when I was googling for an image of the toy, so I could post another 'out of the mouth of babes,' I came across this much more interesting device:

I had no idea such a thing existed!



This afternoon, I left school just long enough to run out to Publix because I'd taken the last of my Sudafed and I'm timing critiques, which means a late night.

When I got to the register, the checkout lady asked to see my ID. I thought I'd heard her wrong, so I said, Huh? and she pointed to the cold medicine and asked again to see the birthdate on my license.

Mind you, this particular Publix doesn't even have a pharmacy; you can't get the good stuff with pseudoephedrine in it--the kind you have to give ID for just in case you're cooking Meth. This was just run-of-the-mill OTC stuff.

It might be worth it for an underage kid to dress up like a forty-five-year-old woman with dark circles under her puffy eyes and a red runny nose--if she were trying to buy something like Cold Duck or Miller High Life. But, seriously, who would do that for Publix brand Dayquil?


My Next Purchase

In the car this afternoon with Lo and her friend B:


TR: LOLA!!!!

Lo: It just slipped out. But you have to admit, it was awesome.

Saturday Things You Might Not Know

I grew up knowing about this story and always had a fear of being buried alive.


Looking Ahead

Cell phone conversation at lunch as I look over my blog stats:

TR: Why do you think someone at the Philadelphia Children's Hospital would google the word 'Mamoo'?

Biggy: Probably because they heard some kid say it and wanted to know what the hell it means. How do they come up with these names anyway--Mee Maw, Pap Paw, Paw Paw? I hate Paw Paw. My grandkids had better NEVER call me that. They can call me Biggy.

We Should All Be Taking Notes

Rallying passions, taking action.

Friday Nostalgia

1991. My friend Ann had an idea for an attachment that would give a girl more incentive to work out.


She's Getting Better and Better

Today, when Lo got off the bus:

Lo: You know how my handwriting is kinda sloppy and all?


Lo: Well, I found out how I can improve it.

TR: How's that?

Lo: There's this rubber ball you squeeze and it makes the muscles in your hands and arm stronger. Bryce has one.

TR: You know how else you can improve your handwriting? You can practice your handwriting.

Lo: They sell them at Dick's. Can you take me?


Take Heed, JackMan.

I saw this on the Today Show this morning:


Email from Boca

Biggy had to go to Boca Raton for a bizness meeting this morning. Being that he's busting a gut to rack up the Father of the Year points, he left after Lo's softball practice last night and was scheduled to depart for home a little after 1 this afternoon. In other words, the plan was that his daughter wouldn't go a single minute past the usual not-seeing her dad. But, alas, here's the most recent in a string of messages from my husband:

From: gcxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: Lola
Date: March 4, 2008 3:24:39 PM EST
To: tania@portfoliocenter.com

Now we're not departing until 4:30. In case you lost track, that's 3 hours past the original departure time. So assuming I get home at 7:30 that will be 24 hours spent travelling for a 6 minute meeting which equates to 4hours of travel per minute of meeting. Awesome. Oh, and my plane is full of ugly people.
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld


When Lo first heard she was supposed to wear "a very nice outfit" and bring a doll to school today in celebration of Japanese Girl's Day, she told her teacher, Ms. C, that she didn't have a doll--to which Ms. C responded, with her 'serious face,' "Well, that's just sad. A little girl without a doll."

Oh, really, Ms. C? How 'bout a little girl with every piece of technology known to man? A little girl with a guitar, a ukelele, a keyboard, a drum set, a harmonica, and a kazoo? How about a girl with two suits of camouflage and a genuine army bag, filled with a compass, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and an honest-to-god pocket knife? A girl with three bikes, two scooters, a skateboard, and in-lines? How 'bout a little girl with her very own petting zoo? A girl who plays Chess AND softball, who travels to see the Gators play, who's gone whitewater rafting and ridden EVERY ride at Disney World?

How about THAT?

So here's the doll we bought her:


Worst. Mother. Ever. Part Eleventeen.

Last night, Biggy and I took Lo and her friend K to Marietta Pizza Co. for dinner. JackMan opted out, since he's at that age where he'd rather dye his pit-hair pink than be seen with his family. When we left for the restaurant, he was watching Season 3, disc 3 of House: The Marathon Continues.

Before we left the pizza place, we ordered him two slices to go, and we stopped on the way home, as he'd requested, to get disc 4. But when we got back, the lights were off and his door was shut (He must have been really tired!), so I put his food in the fridge and went to get ready for bed, myself.

Around 1:00 this afternoon, I got a call from Jack. How lazy could he be--calling me from his room?

JackMan: Can you pick me up from BT's?

TR: "You're at BT's?! Since when?!

JackMan: Since last night. I tried to call you and Greg a million times, but y'all didn't answer your phones. I left a message on Greg's phone, but he never picked it up.

TR: I'll be right there.

Driving down the road, I wondered how I could have gone to sleep believing my son was across the hall. I didn't know whether to be madder at him or myself. When he came out to the car, the decision was easier. It's hard to be mad at a boy who's just so damned beautiful.

TR: When you couldn't get in touch with us, you should have stayed put.

Jack: I figured you had your phones turned off because you didn't want me asking you to bring me food.

TR: Well, first of all, I ALWAYS bring you food.

JackMan: Not that one time.

TR: Oh my god--ONE time--when we really wanted you to go with us--

JackMan: I'm still traumatized.

TR: --out of, what, thousands?

JackMan: Now there's no trust.

Who could blame him?


Saturday Things You Might Not Know

Yesterday at lunch, my friend Ginger was talking about bowerbirds, who have the right idea about mating:

From Wikipedia:

The most notable characteristic of bowerbirds is the extraordinarily complex behaviour of males, which is to build a bower to attract mates. Depending on the species, the bower ranges from a circle of cleared earth with a small pile of twigs in the center to a complex and highly decorated structure of sticks and leaves — usually shaped like a walkway, a small hut or a maypole — into and around which the male places a variety of objects he has collected. These objects — usually strikingly blue in hue — may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even discarded plastic items or pieces of glass. The bird spends hours carefully sorting and arranging his collection, with each object in a specific place; if an object is moved while the bowerbird is away he will put it back in its place. No two bowers are the same, and the collection of objects reflects the personal taste of each bird and its ability to procure unusual and rare items (going as far as stealing them from neighboring bowers). At mating time, the female will go from bower to bower, watching as the male owner conducts an often elaborate mating ritual and inspecting the quality of the bower. Many females end up selecting the same male, and many underperforming males are left without mates.

*This weekend, I'm expecting Biggy to finish painting the sunroom and do a little dance for me at bedtime.

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Writer, teacher, student, mom.

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