Twistin’ Straw

January 12, 2009 § 1 Comment

Of all the Little House books, I’d have to say that The Long Winter is one of my favorites.  It tells the tale of the Ingalls women struggling to make it through a brutal Minnesota winter while Pa is away, getting “the Barrel” from “the city”.  I’m doing all of this from memory, so if my details are sketchy, try to deal with it in an adult manner.  Although it deals with dire conditions of starvation, frostbite and deadly prairie blizzards, it also touches on my favorite subject of shelter, nest and home.  The family is all cooped up inside with NO DIRECTV, no high calorie snacks and no Diet Coke.  As their supplies grow thin, they must take to twisting straw into tight little logs to burn in th wood stove.  All day, all night, one of the girls is always sitting near the hearth, twisting straw.  I was flat out enthralled by this for some reason.  I guess it was mostly by their ability to make do with what they had without whining or pouting or screaming “OMG I’M GOING TO DIE IF I DON’T GET A DECENT PIECE OF BEEF UP IN HERE.”

The point is, Chicago is under a blizzard warning, and while I am fairly terrified of rain storms and tornados, snow storms are when I shine.  For some reason, snow storms bring out my nestiness, my love of ‘living small’, of ‘stocking up’ and ‘hunkering down’.  I went grocery shopping yesterday and made a big roast dinner so we could have left over mashed potatoes and gravy and roasted chicken and stuffing and all that jazz.  But most of all, I went shopping yesterday because I liked the idea of “getting supplies”. I like to pretend that I’m not going to have to get up and leave the house and go to work even if there is a blizzard and that some dream world thing will happen where I get a phone call,

“It’s not a fit day out for man nor beast, stay home Ms. McCartney, stay home and build a fort with your daughter and sew and make cocoa and a warm dinner in a heavy pot.  Don’t come in to the office whatever you do!  Make sure that you’re in front of the window when the sun goes down and the snowy sky turns pink orange with the craggy fingers of trees breaking through it like lightning.  Play a game involving dice!  Snuggle under a blanket!  Take a nap.  And gosh oh golly, you’d better hope the power doesn’t go out, forcing you to use candles all day.”

As the winter started for us, way back in November with a wicked snow, I opined that no one has cozy shelter hunkerdown days anymore.  It’s this damn technology that allows us to blog, that brings movies to our mailbox within a day of asking for them, that shows marathons of Top Chef on Bravo.  When we get snowed in, or rained in or Lazed in, we all separate.  Someone gets the laptop to futz around chat rooms or poker games or keeping up with sporting events, someone watches a t.v. in one room, someone watches t.v. in another, children play with games that talk back to them, that teach them how to read with a robotic voice.  Food is zapped in the microwave, people work from home by ‘dialing in’.  Offices demand to have your cell number, your home number.  There is no escape from the modern world. 

In the midst of my gnashing of teeth for days gone by, I then stumbled into the wormhole of Turkey Feathers and her ‘snowed in day’ where she did everything I dreamed of, right down to the crock pot and the board game.  Well, um, fine, surely she’s an oddity.  Oh no, then Soulemama stabbed me in the heart with her wish for a wintry, cozy weekend. And I sadly realized that people are indeed out there, living the life I have imagined.  It is easy to achieve.  I strongly suspect these families are not settling in with their t.v. trays to catch the Family Guy mini marathon on TBS every Tuesday.  It’s just that simple.  If I want to live small, if i want to feather my nest with handmade quilts and paintings and fill my shelves with scrapbooks and picture frames, I’ve got to unplug.

It won’t be easy.  I am in love with t.v. as if it were my lifeblood.  I love good t.v., I love bad t.v.  I love ‘smart’ t.v., I love the dumbest, dumbed down brainlessest t.v. there is.  I will never be able to shut off completely…but this winter, this 2009 I’m going to try and be cozy to build the home I’ve imagined, to write, to sew, to paint, to sculpt, to read, to snuggle, to twist the proverbial straw.

Who’s with me?


And now, some clips of grandmas falling down

August 24, 2008 § 2 Comments

It occurred to me the other day that I do a lot of 11th hour planning.  This doesn’t mean I save things until the last minute, it means I’m preparing for the last minute.  You know, your last meal, your last vacation, your last ice cream cone.  It’s a morbid way of asking someone ‘what’s your favorite‘.  Which is all most questions are anyway.  Instead of asking someone, “what’s your favorite book of all time?” we ask:  “IF YOU WERE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND…” and it always comes to a fiery screeching end when some smart alec starts asking if there are any LIGHTS on the island, could it be a LEATHER BOUND BOOK, or if the pages could be used for fuel or something that lets us know that if this person ended up on a desert island it would probably be because a group of co-workers had devoted many late nights to its planning.  Instead of saying “what’s your favorite meal” we ask “IF YOU WERE CONVICTED OF A TRIPLE HOMICIDE AND GRANTED A LAST MEAL BEFORE THE STATE BRUTALLY MURDERED YOU…WHAT WOULD THAT MEAL BE?”  And the same co-worker from above would say “I’d be too nervous to eat,” or “I’d ask for something like lutefisk that took weeks to prepare.”  And you know, since I’m on a tangent with this, I should say that what really irritates me (like a piece of popcorn stuck in between that last “regular” tooth and a molar, and you can’t get it, even with floss or anything until it pops out about seven hours later and you sigh and just pull yourself together enough NOT to show it to everyone) about these answers to these questions is not that they’re intentionally obtuse and smug, but that they are UNORIGINAL and NOT FUNNY.  To be honest with you, if I were stranded on a desert island and a genie were to spare me from my worst pet peeve, it would be people passing off old jokes as even remotely funny.  Such as, but not limited to:

  • People should need a license to have children
  • If you don’t like the weather in “xxxx” (ANY TOWN IN THE CONTIGUOUS UNITED STATES) just wait a minute!
  • The calories in “xxxx” (wedding cake, broken cookies, expensive cheese) don’t count! 
HAAHAHAHAHAHAhAAAAAAAAAAAhHAhahahHAHA.  Hysterical.  Except, by hysterical, I mean “clever in 1981”.

But let’s bring this train back on the tracks.  What I discovered as I flipped through the channels on my DirecTV, talking to myself aloud as if we were best friends, was that if I had one last show to watch before dying; if the bombs were coming and the power was going to go out before our skin melted off, or if I needed to pass the time before the Aliens took over, or I was in one of those situations where I’m pinned beneath a subway and I’m squeezed so tight that it’s holding my body together to keep me alive, but as soon as they free me I’ll check out…I would want to kiss my daughter, look deep into my husband’s brown eyes and kiss him one last time, finally let my dog kiss the INSIDE of my mouth, and then watch an hour of: AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS.

It’s a show so perfect that I can’t even come up with a single negative about it, unless you count people trying to pass off set up situations as “accidental hilarity”. 

“For reals, ABC Producer!  My family and I were a-walkin’ down a dusty Tennessee trail, one of us be-camera-ed, and we stumbled, quite accidentally, upon a dilapidated, one story home that was absolutely NOT already scheduled for demolition, and we all stood on the roof with absolutely no idea that the whole structure, already weakened by a missing wall, would collapse, throwing our obese, pasty bodies into a conveniently placed mud puddle!”

But even then, after everyone in the room nasally yells out “set up”, I still laugh – because it’s PEOPLE.  FALLING.  DOWN.  And this is the essence of true, gut busting laughter.  I still howl at every groin whacked by a wiffle bat.  I still double over gasping at every sledding child that takes out a group of adults like gummy bowling pins.  Nothing brings a smile to my face like a bride faceplanting on the altar, a groom

America,america...this is YOU

America,america...this is YOU

 passing out, a mother in law lighting her hair a glow on the unity candle.  That show is pure fun, pure innocence, classic, American Television.

I love it because it has never been “edgy”.  There has never been a “very special episode”.  It’s not catty, or cruel or dark.  I love that it’s on early in the evening, because it reminds me of going to bed early on Sunday nights for school tomorrow.  I love the classic canned laughter of the audience, and dogs chasing something right into the wall.

There are people today who claim that certain sounds, smells, tastes, textures can trigger different ‘moods’, different ‘states of mind’.  You can download ‘aural drugs’ that are supposed to ‘get you high on music’ (I’ll report on this after I get some good headphones).  I think AFV is not only a mild anti-depressant, but perhaps a tranquilizer, a mood elevator, a ‘calmer downer’.  It’s the show I want to watch when I can’t sleep, when I’m anxious, when I feel like the world is a crap place, and quickly falling apart.  I watch it when I have a stomach ache, or when my migraine goes away and I just want to chill and be happy.  It’s a show you needn’t think about, or ‘consider’ or ‘talk about at the watercooler’ on Monday.  It’s just cats falling into aquariums, tiny children pulling down christmas trees, and fat men trying to dance and failing miserably.  It’s everything I love about life – the mistakes that become funny stories, the injuries that we laugh over, the Christmas home movies we take every year, the tricks we teach our pup and want everyone to see.

And if I’m goin’ out in the glow of an alien induced mushroom cloud, screaming at the masses “I TOLD YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN”…those are the memories I want to take with me when I go.

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