Monday, June 24, 2013

When I am an old woman I shall wear a monokini

So this morning after swim practice, I saw a woman in the locker room on her way out to lap swim. She must have been eighty-ish. She had that hunched over old lady posture and plodding old lady walk. She was about as tall as my shoulder. and while I wouldn't say she was fat, her body--perhaps partly due to her posture--was round. Round in front, round in back, a soft, pudgy ball on balanced on soft, pudgy legs.

She was standing just outside the shower room, struggling with a brightly colored bathing suit. She'd managed to get it over her hips, and the back was alarmingly low. I could see the front of the suit swinging around below her belly. She seemed to be having some trouble positioning everything. I averted my eyes, a little embarrassed to have witnessed this. The next time I saw her, she shuffled into the shower room dressed in this exact suit:

Imagine this woman 50 pounds heavier and 55 years older.

Flesh ballooned out of every opening and sagged over every edge. A gaily striped band of material stretched over her belly, which bulged like two wrinkly marshmallows on either side.

Better than when she was half-naked and the suit was dangling between her legs, but still shocking enough for me to have to make an effort not to stare.

My first thought was, "Wow, that's inappropriate."

But my next thought, and this is the one that stays with me, was "Good for her. If she wants to wear that suit, then more power to her." I was reminded of the poem, "Warning" by Jenny Joseph:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. 

So which is it? Is she brave or blind? I guess we can't say for sure unless we know her. I just wonder what she thought when she chose that suit for herself. I don't think she could possibly have looked in the mirror and thought, "That's what it's supposed to look like." 
Did she lie to herself and say, "Oh, I can still carry that off." Was it like Botox or the wrong color hair dye (Ken Burns and Dave Barry, take note)? Was it vanity? Was it a desperate, pathetic attempt to turn back the clock, to pretend that she's still young and nubile? Should we laugh at her, or maybe feel sorry for her?
Or was she honest and did she just say to herself, "I like the stripes and I think it's cute I don't care if I hang out all over. I'm eighty f***ing years old and I'll wear whatever the f*** I want, g**d***t, because I don't have to give a sh*t about what people think anymore."
I hope it was the second one.

P.S. There are people out there who think that old women (or whoever) should give a shit about what people think regarding their attire. I get that. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just fooling myself with my long hair and cutoff denim shorts. Do I look like I'm clinging desperately to youth? Or like I don't realize how old I am?

P.P.S. I think I would have felt far less sympathetic--even offended--if a person with an actual fashion model body were prancing around in a suit like that. I don't know why.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Grammar Fantasies

Except, of course, I wouldn't get caught.
swiped from the Dominican University writing resources page; they swiped it from somewhere else, but I can't read the copyright information.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Less is more

Hard to hold on to this, but I'm beginning to think maybe it's true. That is, I think maybe it's true when I'm not worried that we're not doing/covering/learning enough at this little school of ours.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reluctant Writer

That would be Hank. One of the biggest problems we face as we do this homeschool thing together is writing. Well, getting him to write. Anything.

So strange to me that a kid as verbal as my firstborn should hate to write. This is a child from whose mouth issue long accounts of imaginary epic battles, buried treasure, fantastic creatures--here's part of a story that I heard him tell Shorty (with the help of Lego props):

A single fighter steps into the fray.

But. He fails to notice a single helicopter that fires…three laser cannons…straight into the windshield.

Before they go out, the canyon is so long, that no one is able to get past. They send fighter jets, but they run out of fuel before they can even enter the cavern because….[I lost track here]…before they can even access the ancient temple. Shutting down their main upper wings into landing gear mode, they disappear inside.

The planes then switch, shoot down, and pull into this huge cavern here with crystals and gold and silver and gems and diamonds, and dragon eggs hang with their colors swirling. When the eggs explode, the [baby dragons] hit onto the ropes, climb the ropes to the top and onto these little hatches. Behind the hatches is a little raised spot. The dragon mother sits there... When the baby dragon shed [sic] its skin, the dragon mother picks it up, and--shoop!--throws it into the wastebasket. We take the skins to the market and sell them…as magic…they go into a treasure chest…filled the [something] with six thousand of them.

The tunnel goes right into a volcano. It's been hollowed out so there's no lava anywhere. And there's lava tubes with torches..they go into the lava tubes and discuss plans and things. The volcano becomes a place where they can plan…there's a huge chasm...

So it's not a lack of imagination. Or lack of anything to say, or trouble verbalizing his thoughts, or limited vocabulary. He claims that his brain shuts down once he's faced with a blank piece of paper. So, writer's block?

Most online resources recommend not making a reluctant writer write. So, okay. I take dictation for 95% of what goes on his blog.

What it comes down to is that he hates the act of writing. Typing isn't much better. It's a grapho-motor skills issue. But he has to write--physically write stuff--if he's going to learn to write on his own. It's one of those things that you have to do to do. But where to start?

There's an exercise that I read about that's supposed to be great for kids who have handwriting issues and left-brain/right-brain issue (Hank is left-handed but right-everything-elsed), but it is incredibly tedious--basically trace a large infinity symbol three times, and write each letter of the alphabet over different parts of the infinity symbol, alternating each letter with three more repetitions of the infinity symbol. Do this every day for six months, and the child will improve a hundred percent.

Right. Unless he kills himself or his mother first.

But thanks to this great website, a part of the Northern Nevada Writing Project (an offshoot, I assume, of the Bay Area Writing Project and the National Writing Project), and which I am totally going to steal from again in the future, I tried something that worked.


I told him what a haiku was (5-7-5 syllables--or words, I said I didn't care) and we looked at a couple of examples online. The initial plan was to use this as way to practice summarizing, but thankfully I realized that we needed to practice the form first. Fun. We're supposed to have fun.

Let's try making it like a riddle, like this one about the frog.

No, about Star Wars!

Of course. Sure, why not? Okay, I'll go first. Um...okay:

Small and green I am. (Yoda! It's Yoda!)
But size matters not, I say. (Yoda! Yoda!)
Jedi master, yes.

Yoda! Yoda! Mom, that was way too easy.

Okay, you try.

And we alternated turns until he had three haiku. Fifteen sentences. Short sentences, but fifteen of them. And not a single complaint.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Hank has three of his old school [old skool] buddies over today. Among other activities, they spent some time shrieking the dumbest questions they could think of at Hank's magic eight ball: Will we blow up in one second? Will the Magic 8-ball blow up? Are we in heaven?

I had a flashback to about a month ago when my iPhone 4G in the mail, and Tad and his friend Rowell experimented with Siri by asking it (her?) the silliest questions they could think of: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Does your dog bite?

Coincidence? I think not.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hank and Shorty

We are listening to a book on CD about a 12-year-old boy detective who attempts to collect information at a seedy bar down by the docks. He has donned, as a disguise, a French sailor costume (bell bottom pants, striped shirt, jacket, scarf, and sailor hat) and a fake mustache; he sits down at the bar and orders a milk. The bartender eyes him and says, "You're pretty short for a sailor." The boy replies, "That's why they call me Shorty."

"Shorty!" Dan scoffs, "That's not a sailor's nickname."

The bartender gives the boy another suspicious look, accuses him of being that kid detective folks have been talking about, and kicks him out almost immediately thereafter.

"Well, of course the bartender got suspicious," says my little know-it-all, "No sailor is named Shorty."

"Really? You think so?" I am not convinced a) that this was the big giveaway clue and b) that Dan's nickname theory makes sense.

"Of course! Shorty is a cowboy nickname. "

"Oh. Well, I guess maybe you're right about that."

"Yeah. And Hank. That's a cowboy name, too."

I can't argue with that, not that it has anything to do with the detective.

If we ever get a pair of cats (or fish or guinea pigs), I am going to name them Hank and Shorty.

Hank Williams