Sunday, March 30, 2014

In Response to Midge Brontë

I was thinking about Midge Brontë's whiny blog post from yesterday and two things occurred to me. The first was that it's pretty hilarious that after my second post in which I vowed to be completely myself, I immediately plunged into pretending to be different people.  I guess, though, this was the whole point of the Pretend Boyfriend post  - to let you know right up front how goofy things might get in here, to escort you right into the spooky, cobwebby, closed-off wing of the mansion, where I've locked up my crazy relative...
                              except it's ME!
"You may go anywhere on the estate grounds
but you must never, under any circumstances,
enter the north wing."

In that same vein, I was wondering how in the world will that one person who reads my blog know when I'm being serious and when I'm joking?  Am I supposed to color code the text?

orange - totally true

pink - that happened to me

green - that happened to me but I'm pretending it happened to someone else.

blue - that happened but I'm exaggerating for comic effect

gold - never, ever happened

purple - I made that up just now but I wish it would happen

red - sarcasm alert

Hee-heeee!  Just kidding.  Obviously, that is silly and unnecessary. 
Let's get back to Midge Brontë.  

The second thing that occurred to me was that, strangely enough, Midge reminds me of myself. Her dental woes happen to make a great metaphor for my own stumbly walk with God.  There have been times that I have ignored God's commandments on how to live life and have chosen to go my own way. Just like Midge, I ended up suffering the natural consequences of my actions.  Of course, as explained in my first blog entry, those stories, the unmentionables, will stay tucked away in the underwear drawer

However, those unpleasant experiences were valuable because they taught me that God's requirements are not intended to ruin our good times nor are they criteria for racking up brownie points or getting into heaven. Instead, they are meant to make our lives better, happier, safer, etc.  For example, God knows that if I covet my neighbor's riding lawnmower, I'm eventually going to go broke trying to keep up or I'm going to turn into the bitter neighborhood jerk who never gets invited to the block party barbecue.  

When the dental hygienist told Midge, "No drinking through a straw," she wasn't trying to ruin Midge's vacation by denying her the pleasure of a diet soda. The hygienist was trying to protect Miss B. from causing herself avoidable skull-searing pain. Likewise, when God says, "I'm serious - no gossiping, no adultery, no coveting," He's not trying to limit our enjoyment of life.  He's trying to protect us from causing ourselves and certainly others heart-searing pain.

While I was writing this, I asked a friend to read it to make sure I wasn't making up stuff up as far as bible doctrine. She pointed out that in John 14:15, Jesus says, "If you love me, keep my commandments," and so our motivation in following God's commandments should be out of love for Him rather than to avoid negative consequences.  

For me, these two motivating factors, love for God and the desire to avoid any additional unnecessary pain, came together years ago in one explosive realization that...well, that might make another decent blog post, now that I think about it.

So for now I'll advise Miss Brontë to trust her dentist and follow his directions in the future.  Meanwhile, I'm going to do my best to keep her unnecessary suffering in mind the next time I'm tempted to deliberately ignore one of God's commandments for a well-lived life. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Diabolical Dentistry

Guest Blogger: 
Midge Brontë - Anne, Emily and Charlotte's whiny half-sister 

Today The Crooked Clothesline welcomes Midge Brontë, little-known Victorian whiner and family embarrassment.

Miss Brontë, lamenting
It was the first day of a brief respite from my lowly position as an ill-used governess to several spoilt and unruly children. While I prepared to pay a call to a nearby dental office, the sky donned a deceitfully bright countenance. During my visit, the dentist fiendishly wrested a stubborn wisdom tooth from my lower jaw. Once the devil had done with me, I endeavored to then enjoy the remainder of my much-anticipated freedom. Ere long, the sky flung off her cheerful mask and darkened the heathered moors with sullen storm clouds.

Two days into my convalescence, the gaping hole in my gum, the size of all England, began to afflict me with the torments of hell.
Dry Socket is the disgusting name given to this perverse malady. The ignoble title doubles my suffering!  I have despaired of eating normal food and have been driven to absolute desperation by the inconvenience!  With subdued spirit, I sup on yogurt or soup.  My only solace is that I can manage to wedge spoonfuls of ice cream between my jaws.  

My hopes of productivity and diversion during this fortnight have been most cruelly murdered!  I blame the dental hygienist for not pressing upon me more ardently the importance of NOT sucking on a straw. Had I supposed she was serious, I should not have ordered a large Diet Dr. Pepper at the Sonic drive-thru window a mere two days after the savagery performed upon me.

Awesome Victorian label used courtesy of:  

Note from the Administrator: The views Miss Brontë expresses here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Crooked Clothesline.  In fact, I happen to know that the staff members of the dental office Midge mentioned are very professional, gentle and kind. They also give very thorough instructions.  I think the lesson Miss Brontë needs to learn is, "Follow directions!"

Friday, March 21, 2014

Better Than a Security Blanket

As with all things childish, I dragged out the years of dragging around a security blanket way longer than the normal kid. It was only because I had an awesome blanket. When I was little my Grandma McFarren presented each of her grandchildren with a handmade patchwork quilt. The thin layers of mine were tied together with little pieces of fuzzy yarn, so I always referred to it as my "fuzzy blanket."  It was my bedspread on the rare occasions I made my bed and a picnic blanket for dinner in front of the TV Sunday evenings during The Wonderful World of Disney. The best thing about it, though, was that it was so comfortable and cozy and it made me feel safe.

Lying in bed in a quiet house late at night, the knowledge that my parents were in their room down the hall and my fourth grade belief that God would never let anything bad happen to me were the greatest sources of security.  Yet, unbeknownst to my parents, there were many times Grandma's quilt was the only thing between them and a midnight wake-up call from their scaredy-cat eldest child. Tucked up under my chin, the quilt soothed my mind after I freaked myself out contemplating the vastness of the universe.  And pulled up over my head, it was an extra layer of protection against any possible burglars. Whether I was wrapped up in it watching a spooky movie with the family or huddled under it praying that God would stop the tornado-force winds howling over our trailer, my fuzzy blanket was a great source of comfort.

Eventually, I realized that my fuzzy blanket didn't have magical powers. Obviously, if there really was something lurking under my bed waiting to reach up and grab my bare foot, I was doomed! Ha! In the same way, I realized that my dad couldn't protect me from everything. He couldn't control the actions of any irresponsible drivers on the road and he couldn't bail me out if I made stupid decisions. So I grew out of that false feeling of complete security as, of course, we should.  

Here's hoping this picture tricks everyone into thinking
my whole bedroom is tidy and super cute.
This is all that's left of my protective fuzzy blanket, both physically and psychologically:

Later, during the scary moments of adult life, such as having a hospitalized child or having an overdue mortgage payment paired with an empty bank accountthere were times when I really missed that security of knowing someone else wiser and stronger was in charge.

A while ago, I was reading Psalm 139 and the reassurance it offers immediately engulfed me in the same cozy feeling of being safe that my grandma's quilt used to give me. It reminded me that, after all, I don't have to live my life without the absolute security of knowing someone wiser and stronger is in control.

This is not a childish misconception of the world.  It won't fall apart from being overused or subjected to the violence of the wash cycle too many times.  It is a rock solid, trustworthy truth to snuggle up to and wrap yourself up in when life gets scary.  So go ahead and get cozy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Guest Blogger: Shirley Austen, Jane's Disgruntled Cousin

Today The Crooked Clothesline welcomes, all the way from the early 19th century, Shirley Austen, a moderately well-connected lady best known for her rants in the agony columns of Regency period ladies' magazines.

The Blogger, perturbed
Reader, an alarming injustice has caused me such great upset, I am convinced you will forgive me if I forego the civility of thanking my hostess for allowing me this small trespass upon her quaint little blog, for you, too, will be left breathless with outrage when you hear of the abuse I have suffered. Earlier, this very week, I was being conveyed by means of a hired carriage and four into Chandler to partake of the diversions the city has to offer as is my wont. The day was fine and a fine match for my spirits whilst we traveled along Hunt Highway, just outside the small hamlet of San Tan Heights. However, as we approached a curve in the road, the team's gallop slowed to a trot, then to a walk, until I became aware that a great crush of stalled traffic rendered further progress an impossibility!  

There sat I, the conveyance bound within one narrow asphalt lane as by the confining stays of a corset, hemmed in on one side by a glittering snake of on-coming traffic and on the other by formidable earth-moving equipment.  Indeed, we were passing a construction zone, yet this had not previously hindered our travels to such an extent.   What, under normal circumstances, would have been but a pleasant two-minute sojourn had been turned into a most trying traverse of a full two and ten!  It was clear that something much more insidious was at work. 

I was all amazement when I discovered the cause of our unpleasant delay!

Drivers in the lane ahead of us were attempting to turn left, unaided by a turn lane, across the relentless oncoming traffic into a church parking lot!  A church!   Those who claim to be righteous were dropping their children off at a private school without a care for the great inconvenience they caused their fellow travelers.

Still today, these parents' insistence that their child attend a private school on the WRONG side of the freeway causes me great distress as I sit in stalled traffic each morn.  One is prompted to lament such disregard for the commission to "do unto others."  

A governess, Saints! A governess!  With your children being educated within your own home, we commuters may proceed into Chandler unmolested by your disagreeable left-hand turns.

Remember the words, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." You do not want to find yourself at the pearly gates, defending yourself against the accusation that you suffered your Lord and Savior to sit in traffic for twelve extra minutes each day.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

My Celebrity Boyfriends on Parade: Celluloid Crushes Through the Decades

As promised, I am hoisting the dork banner up the flag pole and letting it wave freely above The Crooked Clothesline.  This way, you'll be aware right up front of the high level of goofiness you're subjecting yourself to when you stop in here.

We're all a little weird, each in our own way.  So what sets the Deeply Dorky apart from the rest of typically-weird humanity?  I'd say one sure indicator is a strangely eclectic collection of pretend boyfriends. No, you say? We all have our celebrity crushes. Well, you have yet to see THIS list, my friend.  I never limited myself to the typical celebrity dream lover.  I went so far as to have crushes on fake TV characters and...well, it gets worse.  Scroll on.

First Grade:

  Little Joe and Hoss Cartwright from Bonanza

I look just like Hoss.                                                                                             
Six years old and juggling two guys?  I was a first grade Scarlet O'Hara and they were my Tarleton twins.

Actually, I was torn between Hoss and Little Joe (one was so nice and one was so cute.)  I have hazy memories of pretending that the Cartwrights would come visit me, along with Batman, Robin and The Monkees. Apparently, I was quite popular.

Fourth Grade:

Barnabas Collins, middle-aged bloodsucker from the 60's gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows
I don't know which picture is more frightening.
I just don't know what to say about this. My heart went out to this baddy.  Apparently, I developed my penchant for liking the wrong guy extremely early. (note: If you're reading this and thinking, "Hey, is that a reference to me?"...No, certainly not you.)

Fifth Grade:

Johnny Mathis, recording artist

Other girls were listening to David Cassidy or Donny Osmond.  I was locked in my bedroom listening to my mother's Johnny Mathis albums.  Who could blame me?  I'm guessing my amor for Johnny was well-known in our house because one of my younger siblings drew a word bubble onto the album cover, making Johnny say, "Aandy + me." 

Tim or Jo-el, your misspelled attempt to humiliate and enrage me backfired. I treasured it.  

Note the drawn-on lip prints on Johnny's cheek.

Seventh Grade (and forever): 

Clark Gable

1930's Beefcake: I wanted you to enjoy this one school picture free.  You are welcome.
Again, other girls my age had the hots for pop singer Leif Garrett or the guys from Starsky and Hutch.  That left lucky me with Clark all to myself.  This was long before the Internet or even video rental stores, so our meetings were few and far between.  I had to scour The TV Guide to set up the occasional late night rendezvous.

Ninth Grade:  

Johnny Gage of Emergency!
Full Disclosure:  I couldn't find a 9th grade pic.  This is 8th grade.
I rushed home from school to watch this in syndication.  I apparently took my celebrity crushes very seriously because - embarrassing fact - I actually said to my little sister, "I live for this show."  A couple years later, she tried to remind me of this conversation and by then I was so embarrassed by my dumbness, I flat out lied and pretended I had no memory of what she was talking about.  Sorry, Jo-el.  I did remember. I was trying to forget.

Tenth Grade: 

Hawkeye Pierce of  M*A*S*H

I loved this character because he was funny and flawed.  At least, this time, even as a 15-year-old, I recognized that Hawkeye in real life would be a difficult person to be around and a terrible boyfriend.  Now that I think about it, I went on to date some real life versions of him.

Throughout High School and beyond:  

Billy Joel
"Sometimes a Fantasy" is all you have left of your hair.                                    
(note: my crummy hair/reference #2)                                                         

I wasn't as clear-headed on this one. I really thought Billy and I had a chance.  I stopped buying his albums for a while when he betrayed me by marrying Christie Brinkley.

Right after High School: 

Pete Townshend   

When I discovered Pete Townshend, I immediately started two-timing Billy Joel. 

It's pretty funny that the prudish teenager who in high school was anti-drugs, anti-booze and anti-premarital sex would pick The Who to be her favorite band.  

Clearly, I wasn't anti-talent.  Pete, like Billy, won my heart with his lyrics.

Community College (a grown woman!):

Cocky Confederate Prisoner of War in
Prisoners from the Front by Winslow Homer

Johnny Reb, I hardly knew ye...

I don't know what to say.  I'm sure it was the long hair and cocky stance....and maybe that partially unbuttoned Confederate uniform. Gosh, I'm beginning to suspect that in addition to working as a war correspondent, Winslow Homer was moonlighting as a cover illustrator for 19th century Harlequin Romances. Anyway, my canvas crush was short-lived, lasting only through that particular chapter in my American History class. 

Middle-aged Weirdo:

Sawyer from Lost
This kind of looks like I had a crush on myself -
 the hair, the glasses, the eyebrow furrows.
A TV character created through the combination of good writing and good looks...what more could a girl want in a fake boyfriend?

At last, we have reached the end of a long, (but by no means comprehensive) list of my faux beaus. After reviewing this ridiculous tendency of mine, the first thought that comes to my mind is, "Wow, idol worship much, Andrea?"  I've heard it said that humans were created to worship.  It's also been said that even if we don't worship a god, we will fulfill that desire with the worship of something whether it's money, beauty, power, or talent, etc.  As a kid, was I following an instinctive urge to worship or was I just a goofy little girl with a soft heart and a huge imagination?  Maybe both.

And now, what about you?  I suspect the dork flag blows both ways.  Feel free to share your embarrassing celeb crushes in the comments below.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Promise to You

You know how some people hate seeing photos of themselves? Not you, I'm sure, because you're gorgeous, but you know the kind of people I mean. We photophobes avoid pictures of ourselves at all costs because we don't want to accept the truth. We want to see something different than what's there in that glossy print... dewy, fresh skin instead of wrinkles, one chin instead of two, luxurious shining hair instead of a scalp full of scarecrow straw.  (note: my crummy hair/reference number one)

I used to have a similar problem when it came to keeping a journal.

I first tried keeping a diary when I was fourteen. I was bent on filling my little clasped diary with deep thoughts and poetic musings. My first page, an attempt to describe the Arizona sunset outside my bedroom window, was a big disappointment and had to be ripped out the very next day. It wasn't good enough. Subsequent pages mentioning boys were shredded within hours because I might actually have been wrong about who was the cutest boy at school. Entries about music and art also had to be immediately destroyed as they lacked any signs of sophistication. I wanted to appear eloquent but the best I could squeeze out was dorky, I wanted to see poetic on the page but I was stuck with corny. Deep and meaningful....I just couldn't muster it. This scenario repeated itself throughout the decades. Friends presented me with pretty little journals. I left them all empty and blank because I was afraid of filling them with my flaws.  I would dip my toes in the pages of cheap spiral notebooks but even those I quickly abandoned. It wasn't them I was rejecting but me.  I didn't approve of the me I saw on paper.

One day - thank God for aging -  I finally just gave up trying to leave a paper trail that would some day trick posterity into believing that I was some insightful, sophisticated clever-pants.  I gave myself permission to spill out onto the pages of a brand new journal everything that I am....a total nerd, a lopsided jar of clay, an overgrown 14-year-old, sometimes silly, sinfully self-obsessed, a whiner and complainer with an out-of-control sense of humor, a hamper full of insecurities and possibly some as-of-yet undiagnosed mental health issues.  I have accepted the ugly and beautiful truth.  In these six years since, I have filled four super cute journals with my flaws.  And I gotta' say, fabulously flawed is way better than empty and blank.

As I pour my quirks and faults out on paper and accept who I am as God has fully accepted me, I feel the need to be more accepting of the flaws of others and  to see other people, even the ones who are somehow more annoying than me, as God's handiwork.

And isn't this what we all owe each other, my dear bloggettes? Acceptance of our own and each other's imperfections? In that spirit, I hereby commit to being completely open and honest with you in this blog.

This doesn't mean that I'm going to subject you to every embarrassing or awful thing I've ever done. When you drop by The Crooked Clothesline, I'll have the unmentionables folded up and tucked away in the underwear drawer.  What it does mean is that I won't  pretend to be smarter than I am.  I ain't gonna get all uptight about grammar.  And I won't act as if I have any answers about education or religion or politics or what's up with Miley Cyrus. I'm just going to be my genuine, goofy, creative, clueless, slightly obnoxious self.   I'm gonna wave my dork flag high.

This is my Gold Standard promise to you. To seal this solemn promise, it seems fitting (and really, so meaningful and intimate) to humbly share with you right up front the very pinnacle of my dorkiness.  In my next blog, I shall present ~

                  My Celebrity Boyfriends on Parade:                          Celluloid Crushes through the Decades