Couples and families often have in jokes & catch phrases that turn into short hand too obscure for outsiders even when explained. Lemon difficult is one between me and my husband.

Long ago my friends and I worked to get our hipster cred by slogging through lots of lousy sketches on Saturday Night Live to get the one insider gem that would be all anyone could talk about the following week. Now I pay $7.99 a month for Hulu on Roku so I get the best bits vetted and watch them on my phone over lunch. I digress. Or not.

A while back we saw the most tense, disturbing, political movie I’ve ever watched called “In The Loop”. Beside the fact that it should have been named “Capaldi Live: Cursing as Art Form”, I thought I was going to pass out because I kept holding my breath. There was one deeply funny moment however, that made me laugh until I cried. I still have a hard time repeating the words without cracking up. An idiotic politician tells his staffer to do a profoundly impossible thing at a UN meeting in the middle of a situation that is beyond crisis. He blithely says it will be “Easy peasy, lemon squeezy” and the staffer hisses at him “No it wont, it will be difficult, difficult lemon difficult.”

Things that are currently “Lemon Difficult”:

  • Recommitting to the house we live in. Because, in anticipation of a pending move that was subsequently canceled, many hundreds of books are boxed up. Which makes this the perfect time to paint, rearrange, re-purpose rooms, areas, furniture etc., also known as “The Great Cascade of Work”.
  • Trying to determine the criteria for the project management for “The Great Cascade of Work”. Possibilities include: what do I /we need out of boxes, what room is most annoying to have in chaos, what would be the easiest project to accomplish, what would be the fastest project to accomplish.
  • Writing my annual performance review and objectives. Just this side of torture, this chore takes an inordinate amount of my time because it is all self-assessment which I absolutely suck at.  Hey maybe I will make that Objective II: Suck less at self-assessment. I wish I could do a Survey Monkey with a 5 point Likert Scale…
  • The pending homework for my certification. I am being such a slacker lately what with all the paralyzed staring at walls that I am a bit behind. Where to start.
  • The pending paper that I have not been writing for two solid months (see wall staring above)

The law of Amanda writing would indicate that since I am writing about it, Lemon Difficult must be on its way out. Had the impulse here to launch into a discussion on law v. theory but I really do need to read a few more articles today.

I think I will spend some time this weekend making a Meyer Lemon simple syrup for a Lemon Difficult Cocktail. Much more satisfying than lemonade don’t you think?

Digging through the CD case that was tucked in the door of the car the other day my daughter found a CD from when she was small. It was a “mix tape” made as a gift for her by her dad’s friend who has a child a few years younger than her. It was equal parts corny and delightful to listen (and sing along to) to songs we forgot about as she moved on to her own musical choices. Not to mention Pandora and iPod genius mixes.

She has always had eclectic tastes in music, probably because her father made her CD’s with music ranging from punk/rock/jazz and everything in between. Joe Strummer, The Specials and Squeeze were early favorites, which meant we were spared the cruelty of Barney, The Wiggles and Disney Radio.

The “La La La La” song by Barenaked Ladies was one of the songs on the “Joey Mix CD” that we listened to the other night. It does “unexpected” things with the letter “L” like singing about linoleum rather than lullaby’s. This popped in my head today as I was reading an essay on language by Joshua Foer in the New Yorker (you can read it here). The thing that hooked me, and made me start humming the lemon song, was the premise that language could (or should) be “cured” of its inherent flaws so that communication would be logical, efficient and precise.

As someone who spends a lot of time talking (and writing) I can’t say precision has ever been my uppermost goal. Maybe it is a symptom of the language, but my drive is to usually word choice that creates feeling. Data is never as powerful as metaphor or story – no matter what our mouths keep saying – our brains know better.

Communication by language is so much more than just the words. I understand the desire for precision for certain topics, philosophers are notoriously obsessed with describing reality with precise, neutral language, but that’s what I thought Latin was for. Language conveys history and values along with ideas. Imperfect slices of the evolution of a society, the adoption of “accepted” knowledge and advances in science, are all reflected in language, dialect and common usage.

Its a fascinating topic, thinking about the purpose of language. Linguistics in general, semantics in particular. I didn’t realize before how attached I am to my language evoking feeling and connection. I think of myself as fairly logical, but I guess the swirly, word soup in my head is closer to the whimsy & charm side of the scale than the precision & efficiency end.  I think in the work I do the emotional connection (forged by words, anecdote, metaphor) is actually what greases the neural pathway to allow new behavior. It’s all self-motivation of course, but the language is a trigger.

Much to think about. Including how children’s songs about lemons fit into our conception of the purpose of language.

CODA:
I neglected to click “publish” after proofing this post yesterday because I needed to take my daughter to her school spelling bee. Which she subsequently won. As much as I like writing I can’t spell to save my life so I take no genetic credit for her spelling skill. Her father and I are very proud of her accomplishment.

I am torn about my blog post today. I am suffering from split focus, attention deficit, mommy syndrome, something.

On the one hand I am busy stimulating the economy for President Obama. Purchasing binders, index cards, graph paper and boxes of Ticonderoga. Trying to figure out when to get the god-awful “spandies” required for volleyball, spending hours at Target watching my daughter try on clothes, and further hours discussing other stores that must be visited and the impending first day of school. This is all fine. Its the process and procedure of back to school.

Just to make things interesting, I’ve added a new complication this year. We gave my daughter a budget for the academic year for clothes, gifts, and extras. We went through, line by line (her father made an excel spreadsheet), and estimated what needs, what she does and how much it all costs and rounded up generously.

We explained the concept of fungible and the fact that a balance in the bank account at the end goes into her savings, we don’t take it back. Incredibly traumatic for all of us. I consider it a pilot year.

On the other hand I keep getting interrupted by news of Todd Akin.

Now he is saying he didn’t mean “legitimate rape”, what he really meant was that women lie about rape. And the GOP, scrambling to make lemonade since the lemon won’t quit, is declaring a no-exceptions abortion plank for their convention. Apparently is it a ‘self-evident truth’ in the Declaration of Independence that we should protect the unborn, and only the unborn, so help us God. If you can’t beat em, join em.

At least until the news cycle is over. Akin could still have a mysterious heart attack in his swimming pool (remember Wag the Dog?), or compromising pictures with his boyfriend could be revealed. It wouldn’t be the first time.

I ask you – don’t these God-fearing, excessively procreating, republicans ever take a break from their generalized assholery so normal people can get their work done?  I know I should look away from the Akin idiocy and focus on the duties of motherhood, but since I’m not pregnant at the moment my child’s needs don’t really matter.

And I feel like if God didn’t want women to have it all he wouldn’t have given us Yahoo, CNN, Huff Post and a Twitter feed. Not to mention all that elitist propaganda at NYT, WashPost & the BBC.

Boy! It feels good to blame God for stuff! I may do it more often.

Writing can be problematic. Right now I am writing a lot and the content and purpose varies wildly – an inspirational keynote, a PR piece, a grant final report and new instructions & evaluation criteria for a grant application process.

I am obviously starting to lose track as I just inadvertently put an Audre Lorde quote into the inspirational keynote. “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Now to my credit I was riffing on shifting perspective and the reasons for taking action, but I realized as I came out of my writing haze that the white woman who would be delivering the speech would need a lot more background source material to quote the black feminist lesbian scholar. So I will include the sentiment, but not the quote and try to get back on message.

If you have never read it, take some time before Women’s History month fades away for another year and read Sister Outsider, essays & speeches by Audre Lorde, 1984, The Crossing Press feminist series.

The tiniest bit of progress (if you can call it that) has been made since this book was published – black women are no longer the lowest paid group in the nation by sex and race. Hispanic women now hold that title.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Perhaps I should use blog writing like a sorbet between projects to cleanse the mental palate.

My parents believed that work was the answer no matter what the question.

The path to virtue, the escape from pain (don’t try to figure that out), the proof to the world that you weren’t a lazy, good-for-nothing. So, in addition to coffee, cigarettes and alcohol, physical labor was always available to distract from whatever unpleasantness was at hand.

Sitting still was not an option.

Granted keeping up a house and two aging cars is no small task, but my father seemed to have a special knack for creating a level of work that now, as an adult, I see was both obsessive and freakish. A tree root once buckled a piece of sidewalk that was at the edge of our property. This small hill in an otherwise flat plane caused my father (with my brothers) to lift all the flagstone in front of the house, level the ground and replace the flagstone. A long weekend of back breaking labor and the buckle was back next spring.

My parents were angry all the time about the work regimen they imposed on themselves but they never figured out how to quit until they were exhausted – my mother dissolving into the couch with a chocolate bar (before she was diagnosed with diabetes) and my father dissolving into his vodka. If they had so much God-damn work to do, we sure better be doing something too.

So I developed a strategy for looking like I was “doing something” by reading a book on the swing in the backyard. I really wanted to read, but that was lazy, so swinging made it active. (I can now read endlessly on car trips and never get motion sickness.) This trick only worked to deflect them some of the time, but they had long banked on me being “the intelligent one” who would go to college, get a good job and help support “the rest of these idiots”, so I was sometimes allowed to read.

Like all of life’s lemons their particular work nuttiness resulted in my having a tremendous ability to whip through projects and organize this, that and the other. And the resulting black humor – work shall set you free – is kept mostly to myself and those close enough to me to know it is internally directed and not meant to be disrespectful.

Something that continually bugs me is people being so bowled over by my organizational skills. They mistakenly believe organization is a talent or an art where only the chosen few can create order out of chaos. What crap. What they should praise is my discipline at acquiring a skill. Organization is one of the skills that I acquired like a monkey to get my father off my back, a skill the world apparently wants me to keep exercising.

Unfortunately, its become a stone drag. Control has defeated spontaneity, crushed creativity and turned me into someone who no longer knows how to have fun. And its my own damn fault.