Thursday, November 29, 2007

An Immigrant's Song

My spiritual cup and Christmas Spirit flask seem to contain only dregs, leftovers from years past. I've only been what you might call a practicing Christian for about 13 years. I wasn't born to it; I chose it.

I was lucky to run into the right people at the right time as well as the wrong people at the right time. My initiation into the faith was dramatic; I experienced full submersion baptism at a Baptist Church in front of a thousand people. But by the time they were ragging on my slacks for being "clothes made for a man" and scorning my lack of femininity, I made my escape.

I went to college and met Elizabeth who impressed me with her quiet and steady faith. Her knowledge of the Bible combined well with her shrewd judgement. She was the first person who sold me on Christianity without selling it to me. For that, she earned her place at the heavenly banquet.

I left college and went to an episcopal church with my Mom. We went through the catechism process together. I joined the choir and the organ committee. The priest was a converted Jew and a ph.d. His sermons were deep, memorized, delivered among the congregation. I learned how to get forgiveness and stop kicking myself.

When I married Doc, I had found a home church: wherever it was we were together. We prayed together before meals. I prayed every night before dropping off to sleep listening to the frogs chirruping or the frost crackling on the roof, depending on the season. If I listened hard enough, I could almost hear the creek.

Then we fled the countryside; having children changed our life beyond what we could have imagined, just like everyone said it would. In the city we were alone, but we had each other. Our time there contained the snowiest April in recorded history. Knee deep in the urban plight, I clung to my faith and took the first train out of there.

Now, we have a manageable house, we are close to family, we have a great neighborhood, and the children are out of diapers. It's the result of several well-laid plans that were designed with the help of prayer and good council. I should sigh a sigh of relief and rev up to soak up the season.

But I was feeling kind of empty and detached. Doc and I are ships passing in the night most evenings. We aren't sharing many meals, therefore we aren't praying much. I was feeling kind of sorry for myself, like maybe I was wrong to latch my wagon up to this particular fairy tale. After all, if God was loving and kind, why are all these people dying before their time? And why are people dumb enough to say things like, "It's all part of God's plan."? These are questions I am forced to consider daily, thanks to my pal, Hot Lemon.

After awhile, I ran out of reasons. I stood on the brink of kissing the whole idea of God goodbye. And I was granted a minor miracle: a few minutes alone with solitaire and iTunes. Getting time alone is a rare gift these days and I enjoy a good few games of solitaire; it puts me in a contemplative move. I turned on iTunes; I needed to hear some Dolly.

Love is in the water
Love is in the air
Show me where to go
Tell me will love be there ( love be there )
Teach me how to speak
Teach me how to share
Teach me where to go
Tell me will love be there ( love be there )


And then I heard this:

Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother,
and in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his holy name.

I bowed my head, humbled. This was my Grandma's favorite Christmas carol. I didn't know her very well; she emmigrated to Canada when I was very young. I remember very vividly sitting in a food court in a mall in Ottawa when I went to see her in 1994. We had gone shopping and we were breaking for lunch. Her husband Peter, was fetching napkins and Grandma and I had just settled into our seats.

O Holy Night began to float over our heads and my Grandma inhaled deeply. "This is my favorite Christmas song...'fall on your knees!' Isn't it wonderful?" She asked me breathlessly. She was a died in the wool Anglican and had a real joy around her faith. I was surprised by the simple happiness she shared with me. Often, when people talk about faith, they are trying to either convince you to join them or they have some other not so hidden agendas. This was either a moment purely lacking hidden agenda or my Grandma was one fine actress. I'll tell you, I'm not really sure to this day which it is, but I hope it's the former.

But the verse I quoted above, about being brothers to slaves I was reminded about what I really dig about Jesus: Righteousness, goodness. And why I chose the path I did, why I chose to believe. I received a reminder to fall on my knees and my cup and flask began to runneth over. I could blame Hot Lemon for this recent hot funk. Afterall, he is constantly questioning God and His existance. And like I said, I've run out of rebuttals. But he's done me a favor: he made me think about God, seriously, like I did when I was on the run.

I glanced into the abyss that is the universe and thought, I'll never understand, but I'd like to know for sure: Are you there God? I think I got my answer.

So I will kick off my holiday season believing again. I will keep asking how to speak, where to go, and will I find love. If you need me, I'll be out breaking chains.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jus' Killin' Time 'til Bedtime

It's 9:45. I presume Riley is asleep but my little night owl just outwitted me. She snookered her way out here on the couch. Sigh. I'm tired. I had a long boring day at work and a long, rainy boring drive home. I've been draggin' ass all day.

I get home and Doc's stands up long enough to say that he is crashing. A headache hit him, I guess. The girls and I had a nice evening. They had a bath. But damned if they won't settle down. I've removed all stimuli and gave grave warnings of their fate should the get out of bed.

Lucy moments ago, came out and said she didn't want to sleep in sister's room. I mistakenly said, "Go to bed...I don't care where."

Two beats passed and she decided to sleep here on the couch next to me. Crap. Outsmarted by a three-year-old. So far, though, the signs of pending sleep are here. She is sucking on her bottom lip and rubbing her ears. She's got dark circles. She's not talking. All good signs that I will soon be able to put her to bed, climb into my "spoil me" jammies, spoon in with Doc, and cross this Monday off my calendar.

Here's to a night of dreams that aren't about work and a hope for better biorhythms tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Celebrities Who Have Appeared In My Dreams: Grant Miller and Tom Petty

I was trying to get home from some midwestern city and the guy who was my ride said he needed to stop and meet up with some reporter.

"His name is Miller...someone Miller...Grant?" he said

"Grant Miller?" I asked.

"Yeah, that's him," he replied as he verified this on his notepad.

"I know him," I said.

"You do?"

"Yeah...sort of."

We were making our way into a pub in the middle of suburbia and I started to worry. I had hours of road on me and I wasn't at my best. I knew I would be judged by that eyebrow.

The bar was panelled in timber and rafters and there were two rooms. The front room had a bar on one end and a stage at the other with tables in between and a buffet. We moved toward the back room which was separated off with a 1/4 height wall, and we found a table. I was partly annoyed because I wanted to keep driving and get home and I was partly worried that Grant Miller would discover I was a phoney.

We waited and the barman came around and told us that the Wing Buffet was ready and we could help ourselves. He turned and left and around the corner came Grant Miller, clad in a long leather jacket and baggy jeans. He was traveling with another anonymous guy and they joined us at our table. I considered not mentioning who I was and just keeping my mouth shut and remaining anonymous to him. But, if you know me at all, you know I eschew anonimity.

As the introductions were being made, I commented, "We've already met, so to speak."

There went the eyebrow. After a moment or two and a few hints from me the other eyebrow joined the first one and his face broke into a smile. We hugged and exchanged pleasantries. He turned out to be a very nice guy. At this point I realized I must be dreaming. I offered to fix a plate for everyone while they conducted their meeting.

I made my way over to the "Wing Buffet" and took a look. There was a large bin filled with chicken wings and many other smaller bins filled with different sauces to dip them in, plus a variety of veggies. I was a little apprehensive as the incomplete chicken wings looked a bit unsavory. But I took a few of them and some veggies and made my way back to the table. Grant Miller and his companion were gone. I looked out of the window and saw him pimp walk down the sidewalk.

I set the plate down and my companion announced he was going to "mail a package". Harrumph, I thought. After a while the bar began to fill up and I realized I'd been abandoned. I made my way over to the front room and toward the bar and sat down, trying to figure out how I was going to get home. I looked toward the stage and my view was obscured by a man wearing a Mad Hatter's top hat. When I leaned forward, I saw roadies setting up for a concert and I caught sight of the top-hatted man and realized it was Tom Petty.

"Hey," I said to one of his companions; he was flanked on either side by band members (I knew this because they were wearing long velvet jackets), "Are you guys playing here today?"

"Yes, but we have to make sure Tom Stays sober."

"Ah," I replied.

I tried to call Elizabeth and tell her she should meet me here.

"Where are you?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said and went outside. It didn't really clear things up any. I started walking through this anonymous suburb. I made my way through a family reunion in someone's back yard. I passed garage sales and church picnics and found my way back to a house that looked like mine. And then I woke up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all!

It's time once again for us all to count our blessings. I'll show you mine if you show me yours:

  • I have a local job working with people I like very much

  • I have a lovely reading audience

  • We're healthy

  • We're flea-free

  • It's not too cold yet

  • I don't have to fret too much over gas prices

  • Election year is coming

  • It's raining and I have a roof over my head

  • We found our Wallace & Gromit DVD

  • I know where my camera is

  • I don't have any homework to do

  • I have four days off

  • My neighbors are as awesome as ever

  • I've been invited to two Christmas parties

  • The kids are asleep

  • My family are recovering from great losses

  • I laugh daily (thanks to many of you)

  • Marie Osmond is in the finals

  • Doc has tomorrow and Saturday off

  • My friends are taking hardships in stride

  • I know where my keys are

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Need Advice

How do you tell a friend that a staple of his wardrobe does him no favors. This particular item does no one favors, in fact. It is an old turtleck with the neck part not folded down, but standing up. Also, all of his t-necks are very old, so the neck is stretched out and stands away from his neck, encircling it like an upside down hoop skirt. He's a good looking fellow, but his turtleneck is standing in his way of finding true love, I think.

And speaking of necks, the turtleneck does no favors to one with a short neck, and I say this because I have a short neck and you won't catch me in any top that meets my ears. Besides, when you have a larger chest, like both he and I do, it looks like the girls are hanging from your chin. I want to tell him to wear open collared shirts, to layer. His collar bone should be showing, otherwise, his head just sits right on his shoulders. But he never asked my opinion. And I don't think I can explain this unbidden. What do you think? I should probably mind my own business and pray to Princess Diana to intervene.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vintage Flannery: The ABC Book of Stars and Singers

I found some stuff I wrote in high school and I thought I'd share...

A is for Adam Ant (singer)
B is for Barry Manilow (singer)
C is for Christopher Cross (singer)
D is for Dom Deluise (star)
E is for Elton John (singer)
F is for Foriener (singers - group)
G is for Greg Kihn (singer)
H is for Huey Lewis and the News (group)
I is for Ingrid Bergman (star)
J is for Juice Newton (singer)
K is for Kim Carnes (singer)
L is for Loverboy (group)
M is for Mike Reno (singer)
N is for Nancy McKeon (star)
O is for Olivia Newton-John (singer/star)
P is for Paul McCartney (singer)
Q is for Queen (singers/group)
R is for Rick Springfield (singer/star)
S is for Scott Smith (singer)
T is for Tim Conway (star)
U is for Utopia (singers/group)
V is for the Vapors (singers/group)
W is for Wings (group)
X is for XTC (singers/group)
Y is for Yes (singers/group)
Z is for Fank and Moon Unit Zappa (singers)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Life Sucks

How's that for a turnaround. I went to bed at 9:00 p.m. last night, having faced the scatalogical (I'm trying to raise the reading level around here, so look out for the big words) one too many times yesterday. Coming off of the worst week of getting very little sleep, I cried uncle. I woke up this morning feeling the worst I had since I took my new job. I couldn't figure out why, but I was determined to ask for help.

After taking a shower, where Doc was kind enough to wash my back and feet, fixing my hair, putting on my make up, and donning my punk rock pants, I'm feeling much better. I took a moment to reflect on the last couple of months and realised that I've been through the shit, both literally and figuratively. I had a good reason for feeling bummed out.

So, I made some plans to get out of the house. I am highly succeptable to cabin fever, and I knew that staying around here would only make things worse. So I called my parents and made plans to see them this evening. In the meantime, I'm going to take the kids to the library and see if Elizabeth and Genn6 are up for seeing Fred Claus with us. The laundry is not done, the house needs tidying, but I've got enough clothes for the upcoming short week and there's not poop or puke anywhere. Good Housekeeping might ding me, but Parent magazine will applaud me for finding a way to enjoy life with my kids.

Perhaps having a few days off this week will trip my reset button and I'll be good to go for the duration of the holiday season. Doc has agreed to help with the Christmas shopping and Mom and Dad are planning on sending a little extra cash our way. I am a bit alarmed at my looming sense of humbuggery, but I think I'll be able to conquer it.

I know I promised a new chapter in my novel by today, but it's not going to happen. I'll get to it when I get to it. Until then, I'm going to soak up the Christmas music that is playing and watch my girls' faces light up as they look in wonder at the decorations and miles of toys.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Life Is Good

  • It's payday

  • It's Friday

  • We've got beer and Doritos

  • We've got a babysitter

  • Genn6 is coming to town

  • Tiki is on.

What more could a girl ask for?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brain Blast!

Last night I finished writing my my head. The remaining chapters unfurled before me. Look for a new chapter Sunday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's Tuesday!

I won at poker tonight. My uncle Bob is in town and he's a bit of a wild player; it really shakes the game up. I walked away with 20 bucks. I had the cards tonight. It's sweet reward two days before payday, let me tell you. But I'm knackered. I must hit the hay. But I'm going to write everyday from now on, even if it kills me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Where The Hell Is Flannery At?

I've been blasted away from the center of the blogosphere. I've been hanging on to a tail of a kite that connects me to you. I keep trying to pull myself back in but the gale force wind of time blasts me in the face and I lose all ground and am back where I started from. So here I sit, frustrated by the Chevron Relief Stitch I'm trying to conjure on my sampler afghan that has me occupied, nay, obsessed.

I spent the weekend running behind; I intended to post on Friday and here it is Sunday and I'm days late and dollars short. Saturday I had to get three birthday presents for a party that night and a baby shower gift for the next day. I made the grave mistake of going to the mall with my kids. Talk about flying loose from sanity and reality! I was sadly mistaken that my finding a great parking spot was a good omen.

I usually try to avoid the mall; it's way more expensive than Walmart and equally stuffed with weirdos. But I thought, hey, I've got some coupons for stores at the mall and I'll be able to spend what I would at Walmart and walk away with some good stuff. This was a rookie mistake. At first I was sucked in to the Piercing Pagoda. All of the sparkling things made me forget that "buy one get one half off" was a good deal. It's not, really. But I did end up finding two of the gifts and got my left ear pierced on the cartilage, which I've been intending to do for a while now. The problem with the Piercing Pagoda is that it's right outside of the Disney Store and Build-A-Bear, which my girls had ample time to salivate over as I dithered back and forth over what to buy.

So I got my gifts and my ear pierced and we wandered into the Disney Store where the kids found an overpriced toy I promised to buy them. It was wandering around this plush paradise that I realized I had my ear pierced on the side of my head opposite where my part is, so no one can see it. I decided to go back and get the other one pierced on the way out. The girls decided they were hungry and we made our way to hell. I mean the food court for some Chick-fil-a. We finished eating and went to the ATM to get more money I didn't need to spend.

I decided to forgo finding the third birthday gift and the shower gift and opted to give the ever popular, one-size-fits-all cash and headed back to the Piercing Pagoda. On the way, Riley became obsessed with building a bear. No, I replied. She melted away in tears when I began to redo the piles of paperwork it takes to get one's ears pierced. I think I had to avow that I was not a terrorist at one point. At this point, I look over at the other customers around the kiosk and noticed a fairly normal looking mom-type. Normal, except for the gang style tattoo along her jawline that read "BITCH". Her drunken companion, also somewhat normal started to harass one of the pagoda ladies and she told him to shove off.

"I'm sorry about that," she apologized to me.

"Don't worry about it," I said brushing her apology away, "It is the mall, after all." I immediately felt bad, remembering that this was her workplace. It was not my intention to slag her, just her clientele.

Riley continued to cry, which is not like her, and I decided I'd relent. Another rookie mistake. We went over to Build-A-Bear and build a rabbit for Riley and a cat for Lucy. When we were next in line, one of the two friendly bear-builders decided to disappear and we had to wait and wait and wait. I kept checking my watch; the party was to start at 6 and it was 5:15. We had arrived at the mall at about 2:30. And I snapped. I needed to be anywhere but there. My ears were throbbing and my heart was racing with the anxiety of being late and having spent more than I intended.

At last, our fate was in my hands and it was time to type in the details of the "birth certificate". I kept hitting the wrong button and going back five steps in the process. The screen kept saying "push the green button". The green button was enter, but there was also a green button that had a diamond on it and sent me back to the start. It was lunacy. By the time I got to the register, my veins at my jawline were popped out and beginning to spell out "bitch."

"Do you want to sign up for coupons?" the sweetheart behind the counter asked me.

"Sure," I said.

"What's your address?" She inquired. And the next ten minutes whirled out in front of me and I had a moment of prophecy. I'd be giving her my personal information, which I had just put into the stupid birth certificate computers, again.

"You know what?" I said, trying not to turn purple, "I think I'll pass on the coupons; I'm running late."

She quickly packed up my stuff, like the nice person she was (at least until Black Friday hits) and we made our way out the door.

"OK, ladies," I proclaimed in my best drill sargent voice, "We've got to hustle if we're going to make it to the party on time."

I had told my Mom that I'd be at her house at six, just in case, she, Dad, Grandma, Bobby and Vernice (my uncle and aunt) didn't make it back in time. It was 5: 30. We got to a little seating area and the girls decided to take a rest.

"Let's go!" I said, "We've got to get to the party!"

"I peed," Lucy said and I began to unravel.

I quickly called my Mom and checked to see if she was home yet. Thankfully, she's got her shit together and they had made it home in plenty of time. I asked if she had any of Lucy's clothes at her house. She didn't. I told her I'd be a little bit late and I tried to figure out what to do next. Should I go home get the kids out of the car, get them into the house, get Lucy cleaned up and changed, and drag them back out again and then stop at Target or Walgreens and get cards? Or should I just give myself up completely to the demon of consumerism and dash into Target, get her some new undies and clothes as well as the birthday cards I had failed to get in my 3 hour tour of the mall? I took option b and gathered the girls together for one more stop.

We were able to run into Target and get everything, excluding the baby shower card and made it to my parent's house about 20 minutes late. I zealously hold to the rule set forth by Dirk Gentley that it's better to be 4 hours and a few minutes late and be put together than four hours late and a complete mess, so I asked the girls to sit tight as I applied my lipstick. I heard Riley messing with the door and I told her to stay put. I finished off my lipstick and a woman in a mini van pulled by us slowly and gave me a death glare. I wondered what her problem was as I gathered up the gifts and got out of the car, only to find Riley standing with her back to the car and looking like she'd seen a ghost. Here she had disobeyed me and got out of the car. It probably looked to mini-van woman like I'd left my daughter out in the middle of the street on her on. Well, there went looking like I was put together. I was sure that lady was already dialing children's services on me.

I was able to calm down for a moment in my parent's foyer, until I saw my cousin, Tracey, with whom I share some bad blood and things disolved from there. I made my apologies to my parents and went to their basement to sign cards and put the gifts together while my Mom changed Lucy.

We ended up having a lovely time in my parent's new house. My cousins behaved themselves, as far as I know. I hid out in the basement with the men and watched Roadhouse, a true 80's classic film. I have never seen it all the way through, but I began to understand its appeal.

Today was like the movie version of the novel I had lived yesterday. I was late for the baby shower, having had to stop to get another damn card and I was once again faced with being cordial to a person I'd rather not run into again in my life. And Lucy had her pants. So we left and came home, where Lucy slept and I ignored the piles of laundry and clutter while Riley and I played Scooby-Doo on the Playstation.

So, if you're wondering where I've been recently, you now may have some understanding. I am battling the forces of chaos. Here's to a quieter week with more writing and less poop.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


It’s been one year and two days since I started writing my novel. It’s weird: I know what happened to everyone, yet I haven’t recorded it. Any suggestions from you on how to finally nail that sucker down?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mind Vacations: Terry

Everynow and then, I run into fascinating people, often times right here. And I think to myself, "Self, I wonder what it would be like to live in that person's head for just one day." Terry is one of those fascinating people and, lucky for me, he's a dear friend of mine.

I met Terry one day in college. I had recently declared my major in Classical and Medieval Studies and I had made my way to our very own student lounge. Sitting there was a bearded fellow, who was sipping a cup of joe from a Dr. Who mug. We immediately hit it off when we discovered our mutual love for low-budget BBC sci-fi.

We spent several years together, struggling to translate Latin together and to understand the causes and effects of moves made by the ancients. Everyday, he'd reveal some facet of his giant brain and I'd be knocked over in wonderment. Terry has a wonderful speaking voice. He can recite the poem Gunga Din in its entirety and with dramatic flourish. He speaks several languages and can quote the greats in their original tongue.

We drank together, studied together, shared each other's heartbreaks and heart joys. I don't think I've ever met such a passionate man. He is an all or nothing kind of guy. He spends hours reading the obscure and listening to beautiful music. He dotes on his huskies and his wife. He is a true friend who has wise counsel at his finger tips.

Back in the day, he proudly drove a Yugo. He gave me my first real job teaching computers to disabled veterans. We spent a weekend with our CLAM friends at a renaissance festival, where there was no greater lord or gentleman than good sir Terry, or Christian. His roots are Appalachian, but he's a renaissance man through and through.

I would like to spend a day in his mind, thinking eriudite the original ancient Greek, Old Norse, or Old English. I would like to experience his great passions and share my heart as he does. I would like to sit in his easy chair and read Robert Blake poems while sipping a fine wine.

While I have been struggling to master telepathy, I don't think I'll be successful in our lifetime, but a girl can dream, right? So I'll spend some time over the next few days, thinking Terry thoughts and living life to the fullest. I will let the words of Catullus float in my brain (in English...I can barely remember my Latin) and smile sagely as I do so. I will savor Tolkein's never-ending prose and finally admit that The Lord of the Rings Saga's every word is important. And when I make an obvious blunder in understanding the complex or abstract words of someone else, I will say, in my best valley girl voice (as he is prone to do): Awesome! Can I have a beer?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, Doc!

Let's all lift a glass to this pie-throwing, story-telling, puppet-making, target-shooting, cheap-bastarding sweet heart of a guy!