Monday, February 25, 2008

An Interesting Revelation

I confess. I went and stood in the middle of the scrapbooking section at Hobby Lobby today. As some of you know, I haven't had much to do with paper scrapping since that ill-fated occasion when I decided I was going to Make Cards As My New Hobby. Y'know, the one where I spent six hours buying $30 worth of stuff, making 3 cards, burning my fingers, spilling glitter, cutting crookedly, and making a mess; and packing everything up at the end to give away and calling it a career (someday maybe those 3 cards will bring in big bucks on eBay when I'm famous). And then I discovered that you could do scrapbooking on the computer and every creative cell in my body stood up and danced (admittedly, there are a LOT of cells in my body, and a fair percentage of them are creative, so imagine the metabolism boost I got that day! Pity the excitement didn't last about 40 pounds longer.).

But just for old times' sake, (ok, not very old, and not very much time) I decided to go soak up the atmosphere of the paste-eater territory to see if I felt any differently about my short lived Career In Cards. Or just to see if there were any wicked cool new things I could do with my digital files to help assuage the niggling feeling in the back of my mind that Digi Ain't As Good As Crooked Paper And Lumpy Glue No Matter What All Your DigiFriends Say. So I mosey down an aisle or two, touching this, peering at that, tsk-tsk-ing at some of the garish color combinations, oooohing in whispered admiration of a particularly winsome page kit package, and suddenly I find myself raptly examining the little cellophane packages of goodness that go under the Jolee label (I don't know if I spelled that correctly or not, but I'm not going to look it up lest I see some more and fall instantly under the spell of their attraction again. That was a scary moment and I don't think I ought to repeat it again in the same day because I'm not as young as I was, y'know?). I don't know exactly how long I was in the thrall of miniature paper reproduction mania - I know I fingered everything from a miniature motorcycle jacket, bike and suitably "macho" accoutrements to a dreamy wedding gown, cake, and tux ensemble that made my hormones sigh wistfully in concert with my quickened breathing. Eventually, I did come back to myself (yes, it WAS at the end of the aisle, what are you insinuating?) and moved to another, safer aisle to ponder the phenomenon.

I spent a few minutes staring sightlessly at large, brightly colored plastic beads, trying to place the peculiarly familiar feeling that had swept over me just moments before. The fascinating, tantalizing taste of things to come, the urge to finger, the projection of the object into my imagination and yet the curious tang of identification... and then it hit me. The last time I felt this pull, this simultaneous tug of desire warring with greed (with a whiff of surrender, ever-so- faint) was in the toy department. Fingering wedding dresses. Motorcycle jackets. Peculiar plastic shoes with squiggly high heels, curiously malformed to fit a permanently flexed arch. Plastic tennis racquets, pom-pom poodles, impossible tights that rarely rose to their full length but rather tended to bind an inch or so below the intended target despite frantic tugging with object firmly gripped between knees. Snazzy pink plastic convertibles with impossibly shiny fake chrome trim... well you get the idea. I had been living the Barbie dream in the Jolee aisle at the hobby store.

Dazed, I tried to shake it off. Pushing my blue craft-sized grocery store cart distractedly into the Paint Wooden Shapes For Lasting Fun And Value aisle, I argued with Barbie-loving me.

"That's ridiculous. The Little Shapes were Flat," protested Denial Julie.

"But represent all the major girl-heart triggers of modern life," Barbie girl fired back. "And besides, until Barbie, all appealing girl toys were flat. Remember your mother's paper dolls?"

She had me. My mom and her little sister used to spend hours with cheap manila paper and crayons, first designing their glamorous Paper Beauties, complete with riotous curls and vivid lips (not to mention the subtle and rather innocently defined curves), and then equipping them with a movie star wardrobe of every conceivable purpose, ranging from ski clothes (complete with skis and poles) to shapely frothy evening gowns sure to grace the spotlight waltz with Fred Astaire. I remember finding the little box she kept them in when I was in Jr. High. Back then, I was stunned that my mother had been that clever, to be honest. Amazed at her imagination. Humbled by her ingenuity. To the point that when she found the box years later, I asked her to scan some of them and email them to me as my birthday gift.

Because I have an optimistic and flexible (OK, it's peculiar) sense of humor, I find this tremendously amusing. This realization that no matter how savvy, how advanced, how sophisticated we become; no matter what technological strides we make or what accomplishment we achieve, or emancipation we experience, we can still be brought up short by the little girl inside that practices and expands her future life experiences, joys, triumphs and creativity...

... through a few simple scraps of paper.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

(Written March 18, 1999)

Ah, yes, the Kirby story.
Actually, this is a bit of a misnomer, for although a Kirby figures largely in the telling, it's the people involved that make it a story...

A month or so ago, the doorbell rang after I had gotten the kids home from school. Wait, I guess it was pretty close to nine weeks; because I was seated on the couch having a "discussion" with my younger daughter about how she was capable of more than a "C" in Math, and I understand that another one of those talks is shortly forthcoming. In spite of the fact that I was endeavoring to be firm and fair and not loud in this "discussion," Molly was in tears, and when she cries, the skin around her eyes becomes a screaming blotchy red -- there is no mistaking that she is crying.

So, anyway, the doorbell rings, and I'm not particularly thrilled, because I'm busy, right? I answer, and there stands a man with a sheet of "collector's stamps" in one hand and a small jug of laundry soap in the other. One of these delectable items, he informs me, can be mine if I will just fill out a ten-minute survey, and he hastens to assure me that there is NOTHING to buy. Mind you, I could care less about either item, but he looks at me so wistfully and hopefully, that I figure what the hey, the lecture can wait ten minutes and I agree.

The words are hardly out of my mouth when he says that he just has to run to the car to get what he needs. The next thing I know, his van is driving off, and two teenagers are dragging a Kirby box to my doorway.

"Wait a minute!" I exclaim. "Nobody said anything about this!" But there goes the van, and there they are on my doorstep, with even bigger and sadder puppy-dog eyes than the first guy. What can I do?

In they come. There is the necessary conversation explaining Molly's red eyes, and some general commiseration on the part of the young man, who evidently thought C's were pretty darn desireable, and then they take a stab at beginning their presentation. It soon becomes very apparent that the girl is new to the whole spiel. She later confides that they stayed up nearly all night at the motel going over the routine. In fact, they stayed up so late, that she hadn't felt well, and drank some chocolate milk to help her headache, and she spilled some on her white nike shirt. Could I get her a cloth to clean it with? By this time the mother-feeling-pity is briskly warring with the I-can't-believe-he-tricked-me spirit, so I get her the cloth, and she uses some of the Kirby carpet cleaning solution on her shirt. As the two of them exclaim over what a marvelous job it is doing with the stain, I'm looking at the still very obvious brown spot and thinking "unh- unhh".

On they go. I am treated to such displays of vacuum knowledge and expertise. My couch is vacuumed; I'm shown the filth that resides therein. My TV screen is vacuumed; I'm not only treated to seeing what grime resided upon its surface, but I am also glibly informed that it "has never been so clean before." Thanks a lot, dearie. Didn't they tell you that you shouldn't insult the customer? Molly (at this time mightily recovered, and pretty darn pleased that the momentum I had built in the "discussion" is completely destroyed) volunteers her pillow for the bed-cleaning demonstration, and is suitably gratified at the pile of impurities they gather for her perusal. I am shown how simply twisting the dog-grooming attachment inside out makes a divine apparatus for blowing clogs in the toilet to kingdom come (now where was that little goodie when I needed it? I asked myself), although personally the thought of sticking my vacuum cleaner down the toilet made me feel faintly ill.

By this time, my older daughter has deserted her homework in favor of this much more desireable entertainment. She is just in time for the "shampooing" portion of the Joel and Amy show ( you see, Mother-feeling-pity had discovered their names by this point). Did I have any stains on my carpet? Amy sweetly asks, with the same little smug look she had when she assured me that my tv screen had never been so clean. I avoided looking at her shirt and replied that there were none that I could think of ( I mean, really, she ought to have been able to tell just by looking that the whole darn carpet is a living, breathing stain, but I suppose she learned how to maintain SOME polite fictions). So she chooses perhaps the cleanest spot in the room and tells me that we'll pretend we spilled grape juice there. I resisted the temptation to tell her "Let's just pretend that we're all done with this little show," and suddenly there is a pile of bubbles a good 8 inches thick over the "stain".

I have to admit that at this point, I am mainly thinking what a good story this is going to make for my internet pals. It's the only thing getting me through. There are 27 filter circles spread all over my living room with dust and dirt on them. I have a pile of suds on a fake stain. My asthma is kicking in, big time, and I can hardly breathe enough to maintain my strained smile. And then, the piece de resistance. I am to bring out MY vacuum cleaner to compare to this whiz-bang piece of jet-aircraft technology on a stick. Well, I say, I HAVE a Kirby. They nod encouragingly for me to get it out. Well, I confide, it is rather OLD. Bring it on, they urge. I sashay to the closet and get it out. Their faces register shocked amazement.

My Kirby belonged to my grandma. It is olive green, and it dates to 1958. It runs fine. The motor predates the jet engine version and is easily maintained by my very handy husband. It will live forever, and that's precisely how long I intend to use it. Finally Amy pipes up with "how old IS it?" I proudly reply. They look at each other. "Wow, it's older than WE are!"

"Duh," I charitably smirk to myself.

It was also at this point that I informed these children that I had to leave in fifteen minutes. ( I later defended this statement to Molly when she accused me of lying-- I pointed out that I really did have to leave, because I couldn't stand it another minute) We hastened through the proof that Kirby was better than Kirby (even though he vacuumed that spot 52 times with MY Kirby to simulate a years worth of vacuuming, there was still the de riguer pile of dirt on HIS Kirby filter) and then they spent the next 20 minutes trying to fit everything back in the box, while I filled out my "ten minute survey." By this time, the van was across the street, and off they filed with their survey, and I went and got in the car and drove around until I could breathe again.

And after all of this, I didn't have the heart to finish the "discussion." Molly got the sheet of collector's stamps for her collection, I had a clean spot in front of the barcalounger, Kati had the memory of the brief, frenzied moment that they tried out the dog grooming attachment on Angus (which she found absolutely hilarious), and the three of us went to McDonald's for dinner -- it's just too bad David was out of town and missed the entertainment.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Camera Gets a Reprieve

Lucky li'l Powershot is off the hook with the evil fairy name. Turns out the memory of a middle-aged woman can be just a tich unreliable, LOL (those who know me will kindly do me the favor of keeping their eyebrows unraised, show a little mercy here, people.) Anyway, thanks to Dani for setting me straight - it isn't Millicent at all, it's Maleficent. Which totally makes sense, I mean, look at the troublemaking intent contained within those syllables! One can only admire the cleverness that was Disney.

The camera is still staying Millicent, though. *I* know that she veered dangerously close to the line of total naughtiness; therefore her name will flirt with evil, too (with kind of a backhanded shading of "old lady" which I totally think is fair). I wish this put me in the same cleverness level as Disney - alas, 'tain't so, but it is what it is.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Careful, they spit!

It's not every wife that gets to have a picture of her husband and a camel on her computer desktop:

Actually, he tells me that contrary to spitting, she wanted to give him a kiss. How sweet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Face Hurts

Judging by the pressure all the way around my eyes, and the achiness along the back of my neck and top of my shoulders, I have a touch of something (which isn't too surprising seeing as how Kate is home from work with a virus). It's making me feel kind of cranky, but if it doesn't get any worse I suppose I'll survive. ::sigh:: The whine factor is going to go up, though, I can just feel it.

David's back from his business trip to Bahrain. I sort of forgot while he was gone that he has a goatee and moustache now, so catching first glimpse of him at the airport last night was a "whoa!" moment. It's looking really good now, though. Probably will take a while for him to remember what day it is after 32 hours of traveling.

I'm going to go take a nap. Maybe I'll be less boring afterwards.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Y'know, I've been kind of flippant about the internet and stuff (and touched a chord with some of you), but to be perfectly serious (I don't know about you, but I DO strive for perfection in almost half of all I do), it's quite an interesting phenomenon. Sometimes the anonymity frees us from the constraints of personal interaction, making us more powerful and more confident and freer and better. Other times, the anonymity makes us fearless in a negative, bullying way and we drop the constraints of good manners, and thoughtfulness, and generally make asses of ourselves in a way we wouldn't dream of behaving IRL (in real life. See, I'm good at this IS (internet Stuff) ). This leads to all sorts of philosophical questions. How can we make this power work for good? How do we stop ourselves from becoming things we don't admire just for the thrill of being free to be nasty? Where is the dividing line? Should we care? WHY do we care?

I realize I'm over-simplificating. I know that some really crappy stuff goes on. My kids have both suffered in their own way from Internet Crappiness. My husband still claims that the Internet is the AntiChrist. I maintain that it's still people that are crappy, and that the Internet is only the medium ( kind of like the LOVE of money is the root of all evil, not money in and of itself). So the internet is what you make of it. What are you making of it? What am I?

Food for thought.

Sleeping Beauty and other fairytales

I'm naming my brand-new so-excited-to-get-for-Christmas Camera "Millicent," after the evil fairy in Sleeping Beauty. And I am naming my camera Millicent because she (it has to be a she, a man wouldn't be this vindictive) has made me ugly. With her evil lens and her wicked focus and her relentless attention to detail she has carved lines in my face, fattened my chin(s), thinned my smile and inflated my nose to heroic (ha!) proportions. I find this vastly unfair and totally undesirable. All I wanted was a simple picture for my blog. A sweet little avatar that would let the sunshine of my personality shine through and light up the hearts of countless... oh nevermind. Even I'm not buying that one. Still, is it asking so much for a decent picture? Do I have to be reminded (in 8 MegaPixels, no less) that my fourth decade is melting away faster than than a popsicle left on a summer sidewalk?

Fortunately for me, I had a good fairy on my side in the shape of Photoshop Elements 6. While she wasn't able to completely undo the evil that Millicent planned, she was able to soften a little here, blur a little there, change a little lighting and best of all, make it REALLY REALLY TINY. It will have to do. In the meantime, I'm not going to be spinning any thread or buying any poisoned apples or cleaning any fireplaces. One fairytale incursion is enough.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Is that some kind of disease?

Long ago and far away in a magical land.... oh wait, that's not it. Long ago, when I signed up for my very first AOL account and my very first taste of "The Internet" (which when I think about it IS a magical land, so maybe I wasn't so very far off after all), I knew nothing. Ha. Filling out that little account information quiz for AOL, I chose my username. No. I chose my name. I quickly learned that there were OTHER people already ON The Internet, and I would have to ::gasp:: Make Up A Different Username.

Now, if you don't really know anything about The Internet, and you're really really eager to get ON The Internet, and the only thing holding you back from GETTING on The Internet is a fake username, you aren't really inspired to spend deep contemplative effort crafting a clever and memorable moniker. Or at least I wasn't. So when I typed in "JSouthern" and AOL spit back JSouth 4205 as an ingenious alternative to my dull suggestion, I was a bit dismayed until I noticed that the digits at the end could be rearranged to be my childhood telephone number (yes, I grew up in a town so small that we had four digit telephone numbers), and JSouth4502 was hastily born so I could get ON The Internet. I really felt terribly clever, with my half-name-half-secret-code-from-the-past.

That clever feeling lasted until the moment I actually got signed in and was ON The Internet. In that magical land I quickly picked up on the fact that other folks had spent more than 3 minutes planning their cyberpersona, and actually had cute, meaningful, and here's the kicker, EASY TO REMEMBER usernames. And now I had saddled myself with a Borglike Master Screenname which could not be changed, because let's face it, AOL figured anyone in a position to create a Master Screenname was old enough and wise enough to come up with something charming and clever and EASY TO REMEMBER, and therefore would not need to make any changes. Oh sure, the other screen names that my account was allowed were able to change at a moment's notice, at the slightest whiff of boredom. But not the reliable, intelligent Master Account Creator who JUST WANTED TO GET ON THE INTERNET. ::sigh::

Many years down the road, AOL allowed one to create a second master screen name. By this time, I was reasonably accustomed to no one having a clue whether I was a man or a woman (although it was generally assumed that I was a man, because a WOMAN would be more CREATIVE with their username!). No one being able to remember my secret code, no one being charmed by my cleverness and ingenuity. Though beaten-down and fatigued by my dreary status, I retained enough strength to try again. I spent a great deal more effort on this attempt. I knew I wanted something much more representative of ME. No more anonymity. No more ambiguity. I wanted girly and personal. Unfortunately, a whole string of Julies before me had also wanted girly and personal and unambiguous and they had all chosen their AOL screen name well in advance of my feeble efforts. At long last, after trying multitudinous combinations of my name and my presence of being, I found one that was untouched and available: JulieItIs. Scarcely believing my good luck I rushed through the rest of the screenname creation to save my precious invention before some predatory and equally desperate Julie snatched it away from me just at the brink of my new cyber existence. Whew! Success!

I gleefully signed into my new account and sent email to everyone I knew and loved and cherished, announcing the New Me. It was glorious. My entire attitude to the world was new and fresh and giddy and happy and nothing could bring me down...

Until I filled out a form somewhere on The Internet asking for my email address. I cheerfully filled it out, julieitis (at) aol (dot) com. Hmmm. Somehow losing some capital letters put a new and not entirely satisfactory slant on my proud creation. It no longer looked girly and personal and fun. In fact, it bore a strong resemblance to... well, to a disease. Like something that might get left on a drinking glass in a lipstick schmear, or lurk on a doorknob waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting cyber wanderer and land him in a hospital bed with various distant relatives whispering dread pronouncements over the likelihood of his continued existence. This wasn't what I wanted. This wasn't the New ME. This was disgusting!

And as I sat there, frozen with the shock of the ice cold rain falling on my parade of screenname joy, the first "congratulatory" emails began to arrive in my box. Never had "You've Got Mail" sounded such a death knell on hope and anticipation for me. I opened the first.

"Cool, you've got a new screenname. So what are you now, some kind of disease?"

And there it was. Fate had tricked me a second time. I knew I couldn't bear the shame of writing back to everyone and admitting my folly; I was just going to have to brazen it out and convince everyone that I, in my infinite wisdom, had willingly chosen this path, and I began a barrage of self-justification that started with I Was Being Clever and Thinking Outside The Box and ended with a storm of You Won't Forget It and You Can Spell It, and buried my shame deep in the recesses of my rarely defragged hard drive.

Until Now. Now you know.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Ok, here I am. Now what do I do?

Somehow, having a blog seemed like a really good idea in my mind, but I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with it now that I have it. The last time I felt this way was the ill-fated day we decided to get a new puppy. I remember looking down at the cute little guy who was desperately trying to crawl off my lap in the truck, and thinking, "wow, this doesn't seem like nearly as good of an idea as it did when he was all soft and sweet and big huge puppy dog eyes in someone else's yard!"

So. Here's my new big-eyed puppy dog blog. I guess I can keep it and see how it goes...