Sunday, October 21, 2012

Scaredy cat puts up a political sign

I'm sitting on our front porch with my coffee.

I am babysitting my "Aggies for Obama" sign in the front yard.

It is glorious.  Beautiful maroon and white.  When I came back from dropping off The Redhead at school, I smiled when I saw it.  It made me happy.

It is so pretty - the white lettering on the maroon background, "Aggies" in script font, the rest in block lettering.

I am worried someone might vandalize it or steal it.  Crush it, perhaps - and leave it destroyed.
"That'll teach 'em!" they'll say as they dust off their hands and get back into their F150 crew cab with their "NOBAMA" bumper sticker.

As I put the boys to bed the first night the sign was displayed, I assured them that Yellow Dog would bark at any mischief in the front yard, but that if they heard anything, they should just run to my room and get me.

That scared them a little.  "Can she just sleep in here?" Thing 1 asked.

"It's probably better if she's on the couch," I said.  I wanted her as close as possible to the front door.

"Why?" Thing 1 asked.

And I realized I hadn't explained it to him yet.  I sometimes forget, in our household of three boys, to whom I've talked.  It is a confusing place.  I had explained to The Redhead and Thing 2 that I had ordered a political sign, that  I'd had to design it and have it custom made.  I wanted something unique that reflected my individual political views, but that also identified me as part of a larger group.
So I told him that people might try to steal our sign or vandalize it or maybe even drive by and yell or throw something.

"Why?' he asked again.

Cause people are fuckin' stupid.
Can't say that.

"Because some people hate Obama - our president - so much that they can't control themselves.  They have issues."

The boy still looked worried.  Less so when he saw Yellow Dog settle in to the crook of the couch for the night - steps from his bedroom door, but even less steps from the front door.

As I was explaining the potential for people to act crazy, I questioned my own sanity.  "If anything bad happens, I'll take the sign down," I added for reassurance.  But then what was the point?  The assholes have won.  I even thought about removing it every night, re-staking it every day.  No one would do anything in broad daylight, right?

The night passed uneventfully.  And so did the next.  And the next.

But I'm spending more time on the front porch - watching.  Like when I first put it up and brought Yellow Dog out with me and drank a beer in the swing.  I want people to be tickled by it.  I want someone to honk "Hullabaloo, Caneck Caneck!" (the first notes of the Aggie War Hymn) in solidarity.  That's what I would do.  I might even pull over and want to shake the hand of someone so clever. A kindred spirit.

And if you don't get chills watchin' that?  You're dead inside.  

A cat hopped up on the porch with me that first night.

"Meow," she said.  But what she meant was, "I like your sign.  Gig 'em!"  And then she was gone.

A scaredy cat.  Bold.  Only, not so much.

Is that what I am?  A scaredy cat?

I tell myself soothing things.  Have faith in people.  Trust that you live in a good neighborhood.  And by good, I mean diverse and tolerant.  There are two other Obama signs a few blocks away.  They have not been mangled or stolen, as far as I know.  They are dueling with a couple of Romney/Ryan signs.  Every time I drive down the street, I smile.  I like to think they're all friends - these neighbors with differing political views.

I am the first on our street to put up a presidential political sign.  In the last local election, there were a few - all for Republicans.  And I have heard the political opinions of the neighbors at various potlucks and impromptu block parties where the wine and beer are flowing.  "Anyone but Obama" is the majority mantra.  Seriously.  So I usually just keep quiet.  Keep the peace.

My earliest memory of politics is when my parents returned from voting for the president in 1980.  Carter - the Democratic incumbent - versus Reagan, the Republican challenger.  I was ten years old.  I knew they had gone to vote and so when they came home I asked, "Who did you vote for?"  I was excited.  All I had voted for up to that point was my favorite flavor of ice cream or where to go on vacation.

I remember my father chuckling and sitting down at the kitchen table and explaining to me that it was not polite to ask someone how they voted.  He issued edicts like that occasionally.  You do not ask a farmer how many acres he owns nor a rancher how many head of cattle he has.  And if someone was (gasp!) rude enough to ask such things of you, your reply might simply be, "A few."

So when I asked how he and my mother voted he replied, "We voted for the best man for the job."  Of course, since he was also using the moment to teach me something and not to hide anything from me, he also told me that my mother and he were independents and that last time they'd voted for Carter, but this time they voted for Reagan.

Some of that lesson has stuck with me.  I do not ask people how they vote.  Ever.  And I have never put a political sign of any kind in my yard nor a bumper sticker on my car.  I consider voting a private affair.

Until now.  There is just something about feeling like a minority voter that makes me want to speak out.  I don't like people assuming that I am a Republican.  I get the creepy feeling they're doing so because of the color of my skin.  And because I'm a fifth generation native Texan.  And because I went to Texas A&M.  An "Aggies for Obama" sign is kinda like a "Mormons for Obama" sign.  Texas A&M is home to the George Bush Presidential Library, for goodness sake!

And that's why I did it.  I want people to think twice when they see it.  I want it to challenge their stereotypes.  A friend of mine responded to the sign like this, "Way to make people feel conflicted about their interests!"  

And I am happy to report that the sign remains in our yard, unmolested.  The pizza delivery guy who came to our house Friday night shyly admitted, "I love your sign," as he handed over our order.  "I hope it's still here when I drive by next time."

So do I.  

Gig 'em.  WHOOP!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pantry Shame

I recently received a text most parents would be ashamed to receive from their teenager - lucky for you I have no shame.  Here is the transcript for you to enjoy:

Sent from school at 12:36 p.m. (lunchtime)

The Redhead: My ceral had a bug in it 

Worst Mom Ever:  sweet!  now u&daddy have something in common.*

The Redhead:  It was sooo gross and I found its shed in the ceral!!!!!!!!!!!!

Worst Mom Ever:  awesome.  now i have material for my next blog!  thx, Red!

The Redhead:  And i was halfway through it

The Redhead:  It was sooooo nasty

I laughed so hard I snorted.  And please notice that I get extra points for not texting the correct spelling of the word cereal to my child in his time of distress.  And I was duly impressed at his use of the scientific term "shed". 

*Aquaman loves to tell the story of how I neglected to throw out sour milk from my dorm room's mini fridge in college so that he ended up, in the dark, unknowingly eating cereal with chunky, sour milk.  Yum. 

Happens to the best of us. 

The offending cereal. Notice I am careful to buy gluten free. Just not careful enough to throw it out when needed.

And it happened in this instance because it was the end of the month - also known as "That Time When We Have No Money Left to Go to the Grocery Store" or "Can't You Just Hold Out for 10 More Days?" or my favorite refrain, "Surely that cereal is still good that we bought 6 months ago?"   

Money is tight.  When the cash I've set aside for the month's groceries is gone, it's gone.  And every month I try and explain this to our three growing boys.  I warn them not to eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting.  I lecture them on how it might be smarter to parse out the granola bars in their lunches rather than trying to sneak two or three each day.  I remind them that when the applesauce and mandarin orange cups are gone, there won't be any until next month. 

They don't listen. 

They're just hungry.  All the time.   

So they instead eat with wild abandon at the beginning of the month and then we're left with pantry staples like rice and canned black beans.  Pasta and canned spaghetti sauce.  Pancakes for dinner.  Ramen.  Soup. 

I even feel a sense of pride when the pantry gets gradually more bare as the month progresses.  Waste not, want not! 

But one might argue that I took things a bit far.  In my quest to encourage the boys to eat the "pefectly good" things that are always in the pantry, I ended up feeding The Redhead bugs.  Or so he claims. 

When he came home from school after "the incident", he vowed that he would never again eat cereal.  "Good," I thought to myself.  "Cause you sure can't spell it."  He acted as if it was my fault.  A failing in my role as mother.  I am supposed to make sure and protect him from the world's ills, after all.  A bug.  In his cereal.  The horror. 

To make up for this lapse, I threw myself into making birthday cakes for Thing 1 and Thing 2.  Having twins is a lot of work when the birthday rolls around - especially when they request very specific, custom-made cakes.  This is no one's fault but my own for indulging them since infancy in any cake request they had.  But, in my defense, it was a necessity for me to make them myself to guarantee they were dairy-free, nut-free, and wheat-free.  Food allergies complicate matters. 

So I baked and I frosted and I came up with these: 

Birthday cakes with almost rancid icing. Okay, it was rancid. There. I said it. You happy? 

Pretty nice, huh?  Only when I tasted the icing, it seemed off.  Just slightly.  I couldn't put my finger on it at first.  The sleepover party went off without a hitch.  The cakes were mostly demolished.  I helped myself to a piece the next day.  Again, the taste was slightly off.  More of a smell, really.  And then I became suspicious.  I pulled out the enormous tub of shortening that I had used, opened the lid, and inhaled deeply. 


That was it.  That was the smell.  That shortening-that-is-just-starting-to-turn-rancid-smell.  I looked at the bottom of the tub for the expiration date.

July 11, 2011. 

Over a year expired. 

Oh, the shame of it all. 

I had now successfully poisoned all three of my children in less than 24 hours. 

I dove into the pantry, checking dates on every item.  I threw out expired cocoa, creamer, grits, cookies, more cereal, dried fruit and seeds, yeast, balsamic vinegar and a candy apple kit from 2008.  2008! 

Then I moved on to the refrigerator.  I was a woman possessed.  Out went salad dressings, salsas, jelly and mustard.  Mustard expires, people! 

I now feel cleansed.  I know that I could only have done this purging with Aquaman at sea.  He cannot see things go to waste.  Even if they are four years expired. 

So I'm on a clean pantry high.  It's a new month, and I've got a new budget for groceries.  I have vowed to never again let food stay around for so long.  We will only buy what we can eat within a few weeks.  We will not waste!  We will not overspend!  Waste not, want not! 

The Redhead and I went to the store last night and stocked up.  He even picked out some cereal.  And I bought some shortening.