Monday, February 27, 2012

And then my kid went to school and talked about hell fire and the devil...

Today I had to give my son's preschool teacher a heads up. Because the life of a preschool teacher isn't fascinating enough, isn't fraught with all sorts of difficulties, what with the having to negotiate all manner of arguments such as "He called me a ballerina!!!!" and "She won't stop LOOKING at me!!!", I needed to tell these particular teachers that because of a certain obsession of late, Cooper might talk about the devil and hell fire.

No, we have not gotten all evangelical here at MidLyfeMama. No, Cooper has been watching the Ghost Rider movies.

For those not in the know, Johnny Blaze, brought to life on the big screen by the toothsome and never overly dramatic Nicholas Cage, is a stunt motorcycle rider with a circus. In an effort to save his father from death by cancer, Johnny makes a pact with the Devil, played by a somewhat creepy but not terribly scary Peter Fonda. In exchange for Johnny's soul, the Devil will cure dad of cancer.

Note: Pay attention, this may come in handy in the future - when making a pact with the Devil, make sure you have read between the lines on the contract. Chances are Mephistophiles will, given the opportunity, screw you over.

Not surprisingly, Johnny does get screwed over. Dad is cured of cancer! YAY! Dad dies in a fiery crash during the show the next day. Boo.

Time passes, Johnny doesn't hear from the Devil for quite some time, but then the Devil needs to reign in one of his sons, Black Heart, who wants to destroy life as we know it. The Devil shows up, tells Johnny he has a job to do, and suddenly Johnny's head and hands and motorcycle are on fire with Hell Fire. He is the Ghost Rider. The Devil's bounty hunter. He turns into this dude at night, any time he is in the presence of evil. During the day, he is just plain ol' swaggering, slightly befuddled Nick Cage.

The rest of the movie is not important, unless you would like to know that Sam Elliott is in it, and I love Sam Elliott doing what he does best, COWBOYS. His character was once a Ghost Rider too, only his trusty steed was a horse, who turns into a fire breathing stallion when he becomes the Ghost Rider. Which looks really cool.

So. My beloved boy watches not one but two of these movies this past weekend, and then is acting out the Ghost Rider all over the house, in the car, everywhere. And he is freely talking about the devil and hell fire. And then I realize that this might not end when he gets to school Monday morning.

Awesome. In my head I am imagining Charlie and Will, two of Coop's favorite people in the world, going home to their lovely parents and telling them about how Cooper was talking about the devil and hell fire and a horse that breathes fire. Cancel all future plans to make plans for play dates. Check.

I did attempt some damage control. I explained that if Cooper talked about hell fire, he would get in trouble, because it might be too scary for some kids. I suggested if he HAD to talk about it, he call it ghost fire. Then I made him call it ghost fire for the rest of the day yesterday.

And I explained it all to his teacher in case it came up in conversation. You would think that these movies were too scary for Cooper, but they were not. He certainly asks a lot of questions about what is going on while watching them, but since good wins and evil loses, he walks away from them feeling the world is a just and fair place. He has had very little personal contact with evil in his own life, THANK GOD. Literally. I would like to think he will be able to live his entire long life never questioning that this world is a just and fair place. The chances of that are about as slim as getting a fair deal in a contract with Mephistophiles. Until then it is not such a bad thing that he learns you can take a bad situation and make it better if you try. The Ghost Rider rids the world of Black Heart, and then tells the Devil that he will use this curse against the Devil. He will use it to right wrongs against the innocent. A curse becomes a blessing. You are never too young to learn that lesson.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How Hallmark Ruined Valentine's Day

Once upon a time I was a but a wee adolescent gal, and I got a job in a Hallmark Gold Crown store. At the time not all Hallmark stores could boast the title of Gold Crown. I cannot remember what it was that a store had to do, I think it was a certain amount of sales, to achieve this illustrious status, but Sells Candy Store in Bay Village OH achieved it.

I enjoyed working at Sells. It was family owned. They made all their own candies and me and my teenaged metabolism were allowed to eat all the candy we wanted. I mean, they were only paying me $1.80 an hour (1981 dollars) so the candy seemed like a good side benefit. Most days I loved working the candy counter. I loved packaging up the various orders people came in for. I got to know the regulars and their favorite candy. There was the little old lady who loved the chocolate covered sponge candy that could only be made in low humidity weather. There was the man who always wore the dapper hats who loved the turtles - pecans, caramel, and either milk or dark chocolate on top. I had never had a turtle before, and the dark chocolate ones were a revelation.

What was truly a revelation though, the turning point where I recognized that there was a certain taste combination in the world and that no one had ever introduced it to me before that moment bordered on betrayal: Dark chocolate covered pretzels.

I know, really, a pretzel? Yes. A thin twist of pretzel. Covered in high quality, 70% cacao dark chocolate. Sweet and salty and crunchy. It was like watching a whole new universe open before my eyes as all that taste sensation happened on my tongue.

There were a lot of benefits to working at Sells. But it was also disillusioning. Dream crushing. Jading. You see, when you work in a Hallmark store, you have to begin hawking the next holiday anywhere from a month to 6 months in advance of the actual holiday. At first it seems harmless. You are putting out the Valentine's Day cards in late December, right after Christmas. Sure, why not. You are tired of all the Christmas cards and ornaments anyway, since THEY have been out since JULY. I am not kidding. Six months of looking at, organizing, dusting and reorganizing Christmas in all it's commercialized glory.

But it was the lesser holidays that were ruined for me more than Christmas. Especially Valentine's Day. Sell's was right next to one of the bus stops that delivered the working people from Cleveland back to Bay Village every evening. On February 14th, beginning around 4pm, every bus meant an onslaught of men leaping from the bus, dashing into the store, hollering "One box of whatever you've got" while grabbing whatever card was still presentable and not bent in the For My Wife section of the Valentine's cards. We always had variety boxes pre-wrapped, in various sizes, so we could just pick one for the man in question, ring up the sale with the card, which was often signed right there at the counter as it was paid for and off he went to rush home to look like he actually meant the sentiment inside the card.

A small part of me died working in that store, from the summer of 1981 to summer of 1982. As I watched people express affection for each other just because the calendar said they should, in the way that society deemed you should, I realized that I hated Hallmark. I love Hoops and Yoyo but even they have gotten too commercial. You have to pay for the best of their cards to be delivered electronically. But they are really funny. But I digress...

I want people to pick a day, just any random day in the year, that isn't a holiday, isn't an anniversary or birthday, and buy flowers, or a card, or a stuffed animal, or a cake, whatever the person you are going to give it to would REALLY appreciate, and give it to someone you love or care about. JUST BECAUSE. Love, appreciation, gratitude should not be scheduled, commercialized or otherwise prescribed.

Go forth and celebrate Valentine's Day if that is your thing. Give candy, flowers, cards. But do it again sometime, for no reason whatsoever, because you appreciate someone.

So sayeth Mid Life Mama.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Things I Cannot Do...

A recent post over at Chookooloonks by the lovely and talented Karen W. inspired me to write my own list of Things I Cannot Do.

1. A cartwheel. Never have been able to. Actually, this entire list could be made solely of gymnastics related activities, such as back bends, climb the damn rope, do a split, etc.

2. Ice skate. I have tried, throughout my 47.5 years in this go around at life to ice skate. I fall down. My ankles, which generally are quite reliable about holding up my body, even in heels, collapse like a bad souffle the moment I stand up in ice skates. Roller blades present the same issue. Old school, four wheeled, two sets, side by side roller skates are not as problematic. Then it is more of a stopping before I die issue.

3. Whistle. I am, always have been, much to the amusement of my brother, completely whistle impaired. Nary a toot, tweet or other whistle related sound can be issued from my lips. I cannot produce a whistle with my fingers in my mouth either. I can however make a thick blade of grass shriek, causing all dogs in a 5 mile radius howl.

4. Make an omelette. Not that I have really tried that hard, but at that critical point when it should be folded over into an omelette, it becomes scrambled eggs. But in general I am OK with that. Still tastes good.

5. Grow a Chia Pet. I can grow a lot of things plant related. So far I have failed in the Chia department. It is humbling.

6. Do a head/hand stand. This is sort of related to the gymnastics issue, but is more of a yoga issue at this time in my life. I have never been able to maintain a head or hand stand, even when I was 5 and made solely of core muscles, unlike now where my core muscles are less muscles and more gelatinous mass. I resent that almost every yoga class beyond a beginner level insists that we should not only DO inversions, but LOVE THEM. Have you SEEN ME I say to the instructors. This body was built for strength poses like warrior. My center of gravity defies inversions.

7. Put all of my clothes away. Ask anyone who has ever lived with me. I am constitutionally incapable of being that organized. I go in great spurts where I will get 99% of them put away, but there is always that last sweater, pair of pants, something.

I am sure there are more skills that I lack. I am, in general, OK with my shortcomings. I have come to terms with my lack of gymnastic prowess. I would not have ever made the Olympic team anyway. I have always been OK with my inability to ice skate, but other people in my life have found it baffling, irritating, or in one case, A CHALLENGE HE WOULD CONQUER. In college the adorable Dave M. who also smelled really good most of the time, insisted he could teach me to skate. 2 hours later he admitted defeat. It was not easy being that person, who crushed someone else's sense of self worth, but it isn't like I do not want to ice skate. I watch those lovely figure skaters and ice dancers every winter olympics and just dream of gliding across the ice, and then jumping and spinning ever so gracefully. But alas, I really cannot ice skate.