Thursday, May 31, 2012


I am supposed to be playing tag today. I don't feel like it. I will get to that tomorrow. But today I am not feeling witty and lighthearted.

Yesterday in my adopted home, this lush and vibrant city that I love, six people were shot and killed. It started yesterday morning when a man walked into a cafe where he was a regular and started shooting people. Then he continued downtown where he shot and killed a woman and stole her car. Police caught up with him across town and then he knelt down and shot himself. It took all day, while the rest of us went about our business, checking occasionally for updates and wondering what all this was about.

This has already started the political shouting match about gun control. I don't want to enter that fray. I have my own opinions about it, but they don't matter that much. I don't want to talk about guns. I want to talk about the finger that pulled the trigger. The mind that told that finger that was its only choice.

The shooter was known to be unstable and very depressed. His own brother said "We should have seen this coming." The other patrons at the cafe where he was a regular feared of him and for him. He was, by all accounts, an unhappy man. Ostracized and out of sorts. He felt on the fringe of things and the killings were of his perceived enemies. I do not blame the victims. I do not blame the people close to him. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own actions. He took his unhappiness, his mental illness, his feeling of otherness and made a series of very bad choices. He could have done otherwise. I will judge and say he should have done otherwise. There are plenty of profoundly depressed people who do not choose to kill others. No, I do not blame the victims.

What I do is wonder. I wonder if he could have been helped. I wonder if any of the people who knew him had tried, to no avail. I don't know. I wonder that we live in a society that drives some people so far out of it that they are driven out of their minds. I wonder if it's not the other way around. Perhaps they are already out of their minds and do the driving out themselves? I wonder if this is a trend that will continue.

It is no secret our country is collectively unhappy. Our economy is floundering. There are deepening divides along economic, ideological, racial, sexual, spiritual and just about every other kind of lines. We are a people afraid and nervous. We feel like we have been cheated out of something and that someone must be to blame. Some blame the rich, some the poor, some the military, some the corporations. We are tripping through these divided lines, weary from navigating what might or might not offend. It all becomes so much noise in the background and we are left with a collective migraine. A low, constant buzzing, inescapable pain and over-sensitivity. We want it to stop and nothing seems to help. Someone must be responsible. Someone must be to blame. Are we blaming ourselves? Should we?

Photo courtesy of Morgue File
Humans are pack animals. Like wolves. We are made to coexist, look after one another. When a weak or broken pack member suffers, the whole pack suffers. Wolves are sometimes perceived as dangerous animals, but there is no recorded case of a healthy wolf ever killing someone. It is the lone wolf, the wolf that is disconnected from its support system, detached through illness or injury or starvation who attacks. Sometimes it seems as if we are becoming a society of lone wolves. Our connections to other people are becoming more intangible. Our support systems disintegrating. We brave the elements, the maelstrom of images and messages that rain down on us relentlessly telling us we are not enough, that other people have it better, do it better, feel better. The brambles of want and need snag at our pelts as we hurtle through the forest. The small and the weak and the old are left untended, barked at for feeling entitled, disenfranchised, ignored.

Human suffering is ugly. Sometimes it smells bad. Sometimes it's frightening. Sometimes it sits next to us in human form in a cafe and we move away, uncomfortable and unable to enjoy our lattes. We bottle our own suffering up and hide it away or we splash it about, obnoxious and off-putting while well-meaning people nod and smile, pat-pat, there-there, and go on about their business. We are so caught up in our rapids of busy-ness that to slow down and listen is to risk being swept away, drowning. So we holler a brief hello from our life boats and continue on. I am a socialist. I am a grass roots socialist. I believe that by helping the lowest rungs of our society - children, the homeless, the mentally ill, the elderly - we elevate the whole society. I know not everyone feels this way. I know what it is to be focused elsewhere, to be frightened, to be exhausted, to be discouraged. I know how it feels to get out of the life boat and wade upstream to reach out a hand and have it slapped away or have it accepted only to be left standing soaking wet while someone makes off with my raft without so much as a "how do you do." I don't know how it feels to go out for a cup of coffee and get shot. I don't know how it feels to want to rob another person of life.

When things like this happen, the instinct is to hide. To lock the doors and keep our loved ones close. To shut out the rest of the world and its ugliness and suffering. But sometimes I wonder how that is any different from what we do on any other day. I am a realist, too. I know there will always be people who become unhinged, make unconscionable choices, hurt and destroy. But I wonder. I wonder if we need more locks, more controls, more fear. Or if, perhaps, we would have fewer feel the need to vent and rage if we threw our doors open and listened. If we watched and we helped and we got involved. If we realized that regardless of the packaging, we are all just humans who suffer basically the same emotions, share basically the same needs, the same fears, the same desires. Would it hurt your feelings if someone crossed the street to avoid you? Would it wound you just a little bit if someone wrinkled their nose and walked away when you tried to strike up a conversation? What if you asked for help and people just flowed past, consciously avoiding eye contact? What if you were sick and your society determined that you did not deserve to be well?

None of this excuses the actions a desperate, sick man decided to take yesterday. None of this will bring back the lives of the people who were just out for a cup of coffee, getting into their cars, driving down the street. These innocent people who had unwittingly become enemies in one man's mind and suddenly lost their lives for it. None of this makes any of that all right. None of this will make a difference to any of those people now.

But that was yesterday. What about tomorrow?

What if we paid attention to the desperation of another human before he felt the need to pull out a gun. Would that make a difference?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kreativ Kommunist

It has recently come to my attention that I have an award winning blog and also that I am "It". These are both extremely exciting bits of information.

First, the Kreativ Blogger Award. The award was created in 1849 by Karl Marx and awarded to Friedrich Engels for their blog Das Kommunistische Manifest. While Engels was quite honored by this, he felt it was a little bourgeois to award only one person, so he bestowed it to the other six bloggers in their co-operative: Josef Stalin, Anais Nin, Stephen King, Ayn Rand, Leonard Nimoy and Dr. Seuss. Then there was a bit of a slap fight and Engels went on to become the manager of The Bangles. It is with tremendous gratitude and humility I accept this venerable award from my fellow blogger and writer, Tara at Faith In Ambiguity. Does anyone who reads this blog not read Tara's? You should if you are not already. She will take you on flights of fancy, deep into the soil, through the back doors of your own mind and actions, and into a deeply hilarious or emotional experience. Sometimes all in the same post and you will love her for it.

Because every good commune needs some ground rules (otherwise there would be chickens everywhere!) there are some questions to answer (the following 10 questions) and some statements to make (10 facts about myself) and then we share the wealth (pass it on to some other comrades):

1. What is your favorite song? I can tell you what is not my favorite song. Oh! Susanna! So not my favorite song ever. My favorite song today is Wasted by Lucero. Last week it was Fake Empire by The National. A few weeks ago it was Another One Bites the Dust by Queen. I also have been recently addicted to that song everyone pretends they hate by Gotye (just exactly how do you pronounce that?) When I was four my favorite song was Country Roads by John Denver. When I was thirteen I was completely in love with the one-armed drummer from Def Leppard and my favorite song was Photograph. When I was dating my husband my favorite  song was Birdhouse In Your Soul by They Might Be Giants. When I was a freshman in college it was Circle by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. I'm also partial to Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women 12 & 35. Favorites are wily and ephemeral.

2. What is your favorite dessert? Just desserts. Who doesn't love to see someone get what's coming to them?

3. What ticks you off? Oh you know, the usual. Cliches. Knee-jerk reactions. Jerks. Whistling. Whining, especially when it's an adult. Passive-aggression. Corn nuts. Racists. People who call everyone racists. Unacknowledged hypocrisy. Children. Space invaders.

4. When you are upset, what do you do? Cry. Blame it on other people. Brood a bit. Blame everything in the world on myself. Cry some more. Get over myself.

5. Which is/was your favorite pet? My cat, Chicken. He passed away from old age (barfed himself to death) a few years ago and I have yet to replace him. I had him longer than I had my husband. Now my husband is my favorite pet.

6. Which do you prefer to wear, black or white? Who came up with these questions? I prefer black. I also wear a black cape, mask and ten-gallon hat. But only on Tuesdays. The rest of the time I sew fig leaves together and sport about frightening small children.

7. What is your biggest fear? Mediocrity. Also being vomited on by a hobo on a crowded bus.

8. What is your attitude mostly? Volatile. Not really. Here's the deal: I'm prone to depression and being terribly critical of myself and others, so I make a daily (sometimes hourly) choice to focus on what's positive and to ease up on the whole world. It's a lot of hard work and counter to my nature, so sometimes I snap like the waistband on last year's pantyhose.

9. What is perfection? This is a trick question. Am I supposed to say something about sipping a drink on a beach with a book in my hand here? Perfection means completeness. In that sense, my life is perfect. I am satisfied and it is complete. As in whole. Lacking nothing. There's always something shinier or better or newer to want, but to quote my friend Bram Stoker completely out of context, "That way madness lies."

10. What is your guilty pleasure? I have none. I take no pleasure in anything. That's so not true. Guilt ruins pleasure, so I try not to waste the precious pleasure time I have feeling guilty. If it makes you feel guilty, don't do it. If you enjoy it, don't feel bad about it. Within bounds, obviously. I'm talking about cupcakes and chips and queso here, not murder and theft.

Ten Random Facts About Myself:

1. I have gorgeous toes. No long, gnarly one that looks like a misplaced Cheeto.

2. I don't like for other people's hair to touch me unless I am very close to them personally and emotionally.

3. I totally made up that whole history of the Kreativ Blogger Award.

4. I only have one tattoo, but I have four or five more that are waiting to be done as soon as my tattoo artist friend scrapes together enough cash to fly out here and do them for me. I will pay him in home cooked meals and poetry.

5. I cried yesterday while watching a viral Youtube video.

6. I'm not sure a gut reaction is always the best reaction. Sometimes it is my gut reaction to kiss a stranger on the mouth when they say something especially nice. On the other hand, I rely heavily at times on my intuition. How can I tell when I should and when I shouldn't? With my gut, of course.

7. I don't take blogging very seriously. This is not a judgement on people who do. I don't take physics very seriously, either, but I appreciate the work that physicists do.

8. I went through a whole phase at work when I was an event planner where I signed all of my faxes "Love, Lou". Nobody ever mentioned it.

9. If I have a bad headache, I lie in bed an panic silently that it might be a brain tumor. I mentally put all my affairs in order and try to imagine what my husband's and kids' lives would be like without me. I also stress because I have no one to delete my blog and Facebook accounts.

10. One time I was in a diner in Tampa, Florida and Jerry Garcia was sitting there writing. I was freaking out about it but decided not to talk to him. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I walked past his table and he said "Don't I know you from somewhere? Gainesville?" and I said "Um, no," and went on to the bathroom. When I got back to my table, the old lady who was refilling my coffee cup said "Honey, don't talk to that man. He's a screwball."

Now for the goods. The sharing of the wealth in this great work collective of Blogland. Here are some blogs I stalk regularly and they might not even know I do. I'm OK with that.

GweenBrick - The author of this blog is talented and he works in Special Ed, which is sexy. The blog itself is by turns self-effacing, touching, hilarious beyond the normal bounds, and true. It is always brilliant.

corner blog - Tiffanie is a part-time burlesque dancer, which is pretty sexy. She's a full time mom, a designer, an artist, an architect and just generally amazing. Reading her blog is kind of like flipping through your favorite art magazine.

Scaryduck: Not Scary. Not a Duck. - Is completely insane and funny. Also British, which is sexy.

Vesuvius At Home - She writes, she keeps bees. Sexy. All the way around. Her prose leaves me speechless and nodding and laughing and crying sometimes.

The Trans-Gentle Wife - The strength and candor in this blog are staggering. Lucy writes with such clarity and passion about a life that is so very different than mine, but somehow manages to find a common thread for all of us.

Chuck Prophet's Blog - He is one of my all-time favorite musicians. I have driven three hours, pregnant, in the rain to hear him play. His blog is almost surreal. He's both a talented writer and musician and he adores his wife. Sexy.

Good Youngman Brown - This is a relatively new blog to me, but he writes well and is witty and sarcastic. That's sexy enough for me. He dabbles in fiction, too.

We're going to have to play tag tomorrow. This is super long and I have some knitting to do. Thank you, dear readers for hanging out around the Periphery. Thank you, Tara. For everything.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tangled Book Reviews: Free Books!

It is my pleasure to announce that The M Half of the M-n-J Show will be the next recipient of Creative is a Verb. In a highly scientific randomization, I took all of the names of people who commented that they'd like the book and put them in a coffee mug. I then drew them one at a time and numbered them according to the order in which I pulled them out. Since there were six names, I rolled the dice. (A die, to be more accurate.) And I rolled a two. That was M Half's number. So the book will be winging its way to Austin over the weekend. Enjoy the book, M Half! And for the rest of you, I guess you'll just have to read her blog to find out when you'll get another chance at it.

Speaking of winning free books, Darren Cormier is a writer I discovered by accident while Googling a David Foster Wallace quote. He has a book coming out soon called A Little Soul: 140 Twitter Stories. The way this man can pack a whole story into 140 characters is utterly amazing. For the release of his book, he is going to send a free copy to the 140th person to "Like" his Facebook page. So go on and give him a like. Even if you don't win a copy of the book, you still win. You get to encourage a fellow writer and he publishes a new Twitterstory every Sunday so you get to read these little nuggets of goodness anyway.

And should you find yourself at everyone's free book mecca - the library - here are a few things I've been reading lately:

Two of my favorite authors: David Shields and Jonathan Lethem both have new books out. Our library currently holds neither of them. Jerks. So, I've contented myself with reading Lethem's The Ecstasy of Influence, Nonfictions, etc. which is relatively new, but not about the Talking Heads. So, you all know I how I love nonfiction, right? Lethem is one of the few writers who captivates me with his fiction, too. If you are new to his work, check out Motherless Brooklyn or Chronic City. Both are incredibly imaginative books with prose that just blows the mind. It takes me a long time to read his books, because I have to stop and savor different turns of phrase over and over. Motherless Brooklyn is more straightforward fiction and Chronic City has a bit of magical realism and fantasy about it. Both are fantastic reads, fully absorbing and intricate without sacrificing pace.

While I love Lethem's fiction, I am of course a sucker for the non. Ecstasy is a a collection of essays and articles that range all over the place, but there's a sort of central theme of writing and the nature of fiction and appropriation and influence in art. Lethem's nonfiction is as intense as his fiction, with the same attention to detail and expression. His primary literary influences are sci-fi, a genre that frequently confounds me, so sometimes the references are hard to follow. The upside of this is that my to-read list is growing and my husband might faint to see me check J.G. Ballard out of the library. "Sure, I've been telling you to read Crash for years, but if Jonathan Lethem tells you to..." What's fascinating, though, is that through Lethem's defense of sci-fi, a genre that is often considered sub-literary, I see my own prejudices are based on very little actual knowledge and want to give some of the classics a shot. I will probably still tease the Chief Lou for reading his "romance novels for boys", though.

It is also because of Lethem that I picked up Italo Calvino's Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings, because I am a sucker for nonfiction. I am nosy and fascinated by the things that great writers write about themselves. I like to see the "real lives" of writers - especially writers like Calvino and Lethem who write such surreal fiction. I've only just started the Calvino, but it promises to be interesting. In just the first selection he explores why he chose to settle in Turin against Italian literary tradition and how his choice of home is both a reflection of and inspiration for his writing style. I can't wait to read more.

But the sun is shining today and the bike paths are calling. The Hooligan and I are about to venture out to the post office to send one book on its way across the Rocky Mountains, and then to the library to harass the Powers That Be about their egregious oversight in not having Jeff, One Lonely Guy available, especially considering Shields is a local author. I will harass them gently, though. It is an amazing thing, the library. I will revel a bit in the smell and the stacks and stacks of books. These millions of words that people throughout history have taken the patience and the madness and the "wasting of time" to write down and share so that we can, for free, bring these pieces of brilliant minds into our homes, enjoy them and share them.

We will probably eat cupcakes, too. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Links of Love

This is not a post about sausage. Although, I guess it could be.
I've been digging around in people's love lives for the last several weeks and have made some interesting discoveries. I was talking to my love and doing that thinking out loud thing that I do and I was telling him that there are about five topics about which I find it difficult to write without resorting to cliche or maudlin, sappy nonsense.

"Really? What are those?" he asked.
I ticked them off: "Love, death, parenting, coming of age, faith."
"I don't believe you," he said. "Have you ever read a story that wasn't, in some way, about one of those things?"

He's right, of course. He and his orderly, lawyerly brain are good at pinpointing things for me that I've muddled all around into a panic. He challenges me and believes in me and so when I told him about my baby idea - my little wobbly, new fawn - he said "Write it."

So, you can blame him for my muddling about in your affairs.

I've been collecting love stories and here are some that you've offered up:

Larissa at Papa is a Preacher "Because I promised myself to not shy away from writing of things I'm scared to write about... Because I want to. Deep in my gut I want to. But I will admit, I don't know how."

Michelle at Buttered Toast Rocks "It's the story of two kids who felt older than their years, who came together like perfect connecting puzzle pieces, who knew that to say yes to this big adventure was a forever kind of deal."

Sleepy Joe at The Life and Writings of Sleepy Joe "Meeting my other half was not the happiest time of my life. I was 8, my father was ill and we had just moved to a bungalow because of his mobility issues..."

Tara at Faith In Ambiguity "My mind settles on the second boyfriend, the one who ended up with a part of my soul in his back pocket forever."

Masked Mom at Masked Mom "How could I have thought, even for a moment, even under the duress of there's nothing to be done about it in any case, that our renewed contact resolved things in any permanent way?" [I might add that this is only a teaser of a post that is yet to come, so stay tuned.]

Word Nerd at Word Nerd Speaks "Then there was the guy that all of my friends thought I would marry. Thought I should marry. The first serious guy. He was nice looking, stable, educated, and came from a good bit of money. If I was a checklist sort of girl, he’d have scored very well. The thing was, I didn’t love him."

The M-Half of the M-n-J Show  "Knowing it could never last, but that maybe it would if we worked hard enough. If we paid enough attention, if we learned the right words, took the right classes, and tried hard enough, maybe it would last."

Lucy at The Trans-Gentle Wife writes a whole blog about her love story and the twists and turns it has taken. "We tried on ruby rings surrounded by diamonds. Something not traditional. Something with deep quality that is impossible to break. Something still simple. Something perfect."

Jane in Her Infinite Wisdom writes of a first love found: " It was the next weekend Andy and I would...I don't even know what. Talk late into the night and remember only later that other people were in the room with us...but only as a intellectual exercise." And then lost and lost again: "And then? Then I got mad. Madder than maybe I've ever been with him. I wanted to yell and scream at him...maybe even kick his shins for being such a damn dunce! And also for being dead. I can't seem to forgive him for that."

There are more. Infinitely more. If you peruse your favorite blogs, you'll find love stories of every description. If you look around, you'll see them: in your own life, walking down the street, in your families, in your neighborhoods, churches, workplaces, underpasses, back pockets, everywhere. Love manifests itself, is the basic fabric of our lives, will not be contained by the heart-shaped boxes in which our culture tries to place it. 

Everyone has a love story to tell. Thank you for sharing yours with me.

Monday, May 21, 2012


You should have seen my to-do list this morning. It was epic. It rhymed in spots and it was a monument to ambition. But then there was this house...

I know, you're tired of it. I'm tired of it. Derailed. Drop everything, jump and run, feed the Hooligan a hot dog in the car. He gets to sit and eat a giant hot dog and read Calvin and Hobbes instead of cleaning up his junk. Best day ever for him. That's OK, though. It's all OK.

It has to be.

I suppose that I could whine and complain a bit. Wah. Things didn't go as I'd planned today. Wah. I have the luxury of a flexible schedule. Wah. My husband wants to buy me a house. Wah.

Seriously. Starving kids. Not just in Africa, in my city. I'll keep my guffing on the down low.

So, my Love Train got derailed. There were checks to write and paperwork to gather and cuticles to bite and Hooligans to feed and one thing led to another and I was just now standing in my kitchen making Muddy Buddies feeling like perhaps there was something else I should be doing. Is there really ever anything better to do than make Muddy Buddies? I think not. Not in the grand scheme of things.

But then this song popped into my head:

And I was transported to Michigan Avenue in Chicago about ten years ago. We'd gone on a weekender with some dear friends of ours and we were, of course, shopping. This song burst out of one of the store fronts and Alain started it.

I know it was him because it was so surprising.

He was usually so proper and French and intellectual and he suddenly clapped his hands, raised them over his head and started to dance down Michigan Avenue... people all over the world... and then Edward scooped me up and we followed ... join hands... arms aloft, beckoning the Chief Lou, who executed just about the finest Water Sprinkler you've ever seen on a Saturday afternoon... start a Love Train.

We danced in our motley parade of four amid tourists, amid shoppers, amid families.
Just a few steps of exuberance down the street. Love train.

Thirty seconds on a sunny afternoon amid a weekend away with friends, amid the chaos of a time full of stress at work and school, amid a whole lifetime of memories.
Thirty seconds of pure abandon that will likely stick with me forever.

We all moved on from there. We finished our shopping, we went back home.
They moved to California and eventually split up.
We moved on to law school and children and on and on.

All of us are always moving on. That's the nature of things, isn't it?
I could whine and complain about that, too, I suppose.
But the idea of standing in my home, getting ready to move on again, making Muddy Buddies and suddenly feeling that train again.
This idea sustains me sometimes.

The idea that these golden moments come and go, like the flash of sunlight on a river.
The river keeps moving, but it carries the sunlight with it. I don't want to be a stick in the mud of this river. So I'll move with the currents, see where it takes me, bask in the sunlight when it comes.
 I'll get swept into a brief dance and then go back to work.
It's all part of the same thing.

This is my Love Train.
This moving, this chugging forward.
 The dancing, the holding hands.
The dropping everything and running.
The hot dog in the car and the Calvin and Hobbes.
The making of Muddy Buddies and the signing of large checks.
The memories and the future.

Let it ride, let it ride, let it ride, let it ride.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thoughts On Cooking

Thoughts on cooking?
There's a point to this, I promise.
What do you think about cooking?
Do you cook as often as you'd like? Too often?
What are your favorite things to make? Why?
How about eating?
We all like that, right? Do we?
Food in general?
Favorite foods? Why?
Do you have any strong associations to a particular food or foods?
Am I making you hungry?
What did I forget to ask about?
In the comments are fine.
Take all the space you need.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Guest Post: Changing the Traditions of Relationships

Today's post is a bit of a change of speed from my usual rantings. Tonya Vrba contacted me with this post and thought it would be a good fit for the readers here around the Periphery.

Author Bio: Tonya Vrba is a passionate writer. Her work has been published in newspapers and blogs. She writes frequently about health, career and online dating. Learn more about her work at her personal website

Changing the Traditions of Relationships: good or bad for society?
In the tragic romance of Romeo and Juliet, the two lovers marry before meeting their unfortunate demise. Juliet is 13 years of age. While his age is never specifically mentioned in the play, it is reasonable to assume he is in his late teens or early 20s given the traditions of the period. When looking back at one’s family history it is common to find grandparents and great grandparents who married in their late teens or early 20s. Many of us have parents who were wed in their early to mid 20s as well.
Today, young people are waiting longer to get married. It’s not uncommon for high school or college sweet hearts to date for six or seven years before they finally decide to tie the knot. Sometimes they even move into together before getting married and sometimes they never get married at all. All this is, of course, untraditional. It goes against the official beliefs of many religions and may be seen as indecent or sinful by older generations.
We are witnessing an interesting clash of cultures as we see old traditions challenged and new codes of morality and purity established. In the United States, 92 percent of the population believe in a God. Most religious traditions frown upon having sex before marriage, conceiving a child out of wedlock, moving in together before marriage and homosexual marriage. Despite these traditions, 95 percent of Americans have had premarital sex, 40 percent of all births are out of wedlock and 53 percent of Americans support gay marriage.
None of these cultural changes in relationships has passed traditional people unseen. There are strong campaigns against all these changes. The changing traditions today are not left to the older age of marriages but to how relationships are viewed across the board.
As a culture, we must be headed in a positive direction. Since divorced peaked in the 1980s,  more married couples have remained together. This is blamed on the facts that couples are waiting longer to get married and that they also wait until they become financially stable. Yet, too often there is substantial pressure on young people to get married.
After I had been with my boyfriend for about two and a half years, I started hearing the question. So where are you tying the knot? Any marriage plans? When, in your early 20s, you have family members dropping hints and friends who are choosing to marry young, these comments can be very distressing. This can be especially true if a person is also single.
Now, of course, every person has their own goals in life. The truth of the matter is no one deserves to feel unimportant simply for being single. They also should feel more than welcomed to carry on a long relationship if that’s what they want. The hard part of carrying on those lifestyles is that parents and grandparents may not be so supportive. A single lifestyle does not mean an abstinent one and couples who move in together are always assumed to be sexually active.
That may be the main factor in tradition’s resistance toward our changing culture. These newly acceptable relationships erase any thoughts of an abstinent, and therefore pure, relationship. While there are many who see our changing traditions as deplorable, in many ways they are preferable. Marriages that have happier children who tend to be better in school. Modifying that more, relationships that remain together are good for the next generation, whether there is a ring on the finger or not.
What are your thoughts on our changing traditions? Has the definition of purity been changed and is it even important anymore? Is it possible to have a close relationship to a God while also approving of sexual activity and child bearing out of wedlock?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Some Light Housekeeping: Have Book, Will Travel

All right, my lovers. Remember when I said I was working on a project and some of you wrote wonderful things about your first loves and some others of you said you wanted to and I haven't heard from you yet? Well, I'm planning to do a whole link up deal on Monday (or let's call it Tuesday, shall we?) of next week, so you still have time if you wanna.

I have so very much enjoyed reading the posts people have sent me so far. I love a good love story. I love a sad love story. I love a gross love story too, sometimes. I am working on a project that is combining all of these things. Do you know anyone who has a love story to tell? One that you love to hear? Do you think they would like to be interviewed? Would you like to be interviewed? Let me know.

Check out the author's website here.
Speaking of love stories... Jane in Her Infinite Wisdom has been so kind as to share some love in the form of a book with me. Remember that, folks? Creative is a Verb. 

[This is a small digression: as this book has been lying about the house, jBird has been fascinated by it. She is also quite concerned that I am reading fallacious material when she's not supervising me. "Mom. Creative is not a verb." She knows this because she is studying it in second grade. So, either her teacher has misinformed her, or I have. Hmm. I have had to explain the notion behind the title and she grooves it; she really does. But this flexibility of rules is unsettling to her straightforward little soul.]

Anyway, the book came to Jane from Melanie at Is This The Middle, and Jane decided to turn it into a travelling bit of love. I have been the custodian of this fine book for far too long now and it's time for it to have a new home, to provide someone else some new inspiration. It's colorful and beautiful and chock-full of encouragement and gentle kicks in the pants.

Here's how we play: You leave me a comment here if you want a stab at the book. I will roll the dice and see who wins (this will be a totally random kind of thing like having a monkey draw a number out of a hat or something.) I'll let you know who the big winner is and send this book on its merry way. If you are the winner, you are under no obligation whatsoever to FedEx me chips and queso or new jeans. You only have to agree to send it on to another person when you are done. Sound like fun? Of course it does.

Also, if you should notice a distinct change in tone and feel around here this weekend, it's because I will be featuring a guest post by the lovely Tonya Vrba, who contacted me and said she'd like to guest post for me. Hers is an article about her view of the changing nature of relationships and what that does to traditional values. I thought that sort of  fit with the whole love thing we have going on here and goodness knows, I get tired of the sound of my own voice.

There are some things blooming with the spring, folks, and they are causing more than seasonal allergies. Drop your comments below, tell me about your day. Do you want to win a book? If you've already won one, you can comment anyway and tell me not to include you in the fun and games. Be well and adore your lives, folks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tending My Peonies

One of my ladies from last year
My peonies are about to bloom. I say "my peonies" but I am only their custodian. They were planted long before my tenure here and they don't belong to me. I supervise them and trim them and watch them for rot and growth and tend to their needs, but they aren't mine.

They are about to bloom, though. They are a rich and vibrant pink. Deep, almost red in their centers, and showy, bright and lush. In March, the leaves come back and the stems grow long and supple from the brown and worn out wreckage from last year. In April they grow their buds. These small, hard green golf balls of possibility. They sneak in suddenly among the riot of the loud-mouthed daffodils and tiny, brave crocuses. When the flash and hoot of early spring color starts to fade, they are there with their buds, waiting patiently to crack and open.

In a week or so, they will unfurl. An impossible clown car of petals and fragrance unfolding from the buds. Their beauty will be so heavy, they will bend their stems with exhaustion and lay their heads down on the grass to catch a bit of sun and take a break from all that brilliance. They will smile hello to me as I walk up my front steps and they will wave their petals when the kids run past. A few of them will be invited to come inside and sit in a crystal throne on my table.

In a few more weeks, those petals will start to fade and drop. They will make small throw rugs, hot pink against the green grass. They will eventually be odd bald stems, with tiny stamen hairs sprouting from their crowns. For the rest of the summer, they will be dark green foliage, almost black against a backdrop of other colors whose time has come. I miss them and bemoan their passing, but wait until the fall to hack back the tired stems and leaves nearly to the ground.

Next year, it will happen again and the delight and surprise will repeat. These grand old ladies of mine know some things. They know that there is a time for resting, a time to let the quick and noisy ones take center stage. They also know when it is their time to open large and resplendent; to bask in the spotlight and accept their due. They know that time is fleeting and only part of the whole of things. They know when it's time to shed their finery and store up reserves for the winter ahead. They are as comfortable with brown and bald as they are with enticing and lush. They know this. They know that ending is part of beginning again, that pruning is part of growth, and that decay is part of nurture.

They are not my peonies. I do not own them. I tend them and trim them, enjoy them and love them. Most of all, I try to listen to them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Emotional Blackmail

What follows is a copy of the actual letter that we included with our offer on a house this evening. It couldn't hurt, right? I should make these writing skills of mine pay off in one way or another. Also, who could say no to those adorable little monkey faces?

Dear Seller,

As you review our offer on your house, please consider the following; what this offer represents to us is not merely money. It is the opportunity for our family to settle down in a home that suits us. We are honest, hardworking people with two small children, ages 8 and 5. We are looking for a place where they can grow up and go to a good school and have their own rooms and play in the yard. We are looking for a place to make our home.
Surely you are familiar with this real estate market. We know there are buyers out there with more money, more equity, more experience than us. We know that you might get offers from some of those people. But we looked at your house today and we saw a place for a family to live, to entertain friends, to enjoy its space and its light. We didn't really see an "investment opportunity" other than the investment into the peace and well-being of our family.
As you think about the numbers on paper, please also consider what these numbers actually mean to us.
Thank you,
Chief Lou, Tangled Lou, jBird and the Hooligan

Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer Called

I was just finishing up the dusting this afternoon and sitting down to write, when my friend Summer called and asked me to come out and play. This is not a metaphor. I do, in fact, have a friend. Her name is Summer. Her name is Summer even in the winter and in March which is who knows what around here. She's a lot like the Summer you might know - bright and fun and golden. She is. I promise, this is not a metaphor. She can always think of the best things to do and her D is the best of friends with my Hooligan and she laughs when I say careless, straight-faced things about children.

Summer called on the tail end of the dusting. Actually, that's a lie. She didn't call. She texted. I just hesitate to say such things because it makes me feel like half my age. Not in a good way. She texted and the Hooligan hollered over the vacuum: "Mooooom! Your phone beeped! I think you have a text!" He's a whippersnapper and much more comfortable with such language. My phone is dumb and flippant, so texting is an act of love. The tedious hammering out of Morse Code on a tiny screen. Beep beep - N. Beep beep beep - O. Delete.

Wait! Why would I say no to Summer?

"Sorry, I can't come and play with you in the sunshine on this perfect day because I am dusting. And then when I finish with the dusting, I plan to collect all that lint off that rag and stuff it in my navel so I can contemplate it and then write about it. I have certain standards to uphold, here. I can't just be out enjoying myself willy-nilly. There is twaddle to type. Get back to me when it is cold and gray and rainy and I am bored. Those are my power days."

 I did not text this. That would have taken forever. Probably my phone, which is quite slow, would not stand for such nonsense. It was much easier to text back: "On our way." It was easier, but not easy, you know. All those beeps and counting letters and such. There was a flurry of screaming and nudity and beach towels and swimsuits and "where is my purse? I just had it!" and sunglasses and hats and "does anybody have to pee?"  and we were off to find Summer.

Everyone needs Summer in their lives. To beckon you away from the things that are no fun. To send you messages unexpectedly that turn the afternoon upside down in the most delightful of ways. To remind you that there are moments to be seized and splashing to be done. To draw you out of flakiness and navel lint and dusting and stormy moods and just generally being yourself. To call to you and tell you to come out and  play.

I have a Summer and she is golden. I'm so glad Summer called.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brighter Than The Sun

"Tonight, we are young. We can set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun."

Driving home tonight in the setting sun. Full of tandoori chicken and saag paneer and sunshine and all the good things this life holds, we chatted quietly in the front seat while the monkeys thumb wrestled in the back. The radio played as a backdrop, mostly ignored.

And then we heard a steady, catchy beat. We are not the hippest of cats, not caught up on the latest of everything new. What is this? we wondered and listened on.

The song, as a whole, had little to do with our lives or our loves. But there in the hook, it carried us over its bridge and we listened. Somehow in the fading springtime light, in the center of a stranger's voice, we found a spot we've been forever. We found the space where it is us and we are together and that is all that matters.

The last few years have been hard. The last few weeks have been full of stress. It's so easy to lose the beat of things that matter. The heartbeat of your love. The rhythm of the life you've built together. And sometimes, in a moment of doing nothing much important at all, it comes back. You're in the place you vowed you'd always be. By your true love's side, holding hands while he drives, and discovering new music together.

"Tonight," we sang, "we are young."
"We can set the world on fire.
We can burn brighter
than the sun."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chocolate: A True Story

Once upon a time in the land that social consciousness forgot, there was an aqua blue Chevy Beretta. It carried them on long drives fueled by conversation and Venti coffees and mom's gas card. They talked about a future when there would be things like vintage homes tastefully renovated, a coffee shop with cats, and books and books and books. They were a complete unit and they and their turquoise V-6 bullet of dreams could go anywhere.

They stopped at a RiteAid and like the map with the big, black X, it was full of treasure. Beautifully packaged boxes of sweetness, two days past their prime and waiting for them there. The red cellophane, like lipstick, promised such soft and delicious delights within. Unable to resist the scarlet sirens that called like emergency, they bought the lot of them: piles of hearts and plastic flowers, I love you's in fancy script; shining with possibility and promise. The store had overstocked on love and they were the beneficiaries, purchasing this neglect at thirty cents on the dollar.

They bundled back into the car, breathless and laughing; unbelieving of their good fortune. Best to make a quick getaway before someone noticed the error and recalled such bounty. He drove while she ripped at the stubborn plastic with the shaking, impatient fingers of a lover. And finally opening that heart, she delved and reveled - the intoxicating smell, the neat and tidy rows of the beautiful morsels each in their own frilly paper skirts. Where to begin? Greedily, at random she grabbed the first with a reckless abandon and shoved it in his mouth. She watched as he chewed, waiting for the relief of satiation to soften his features.

"What was that?!" he choked, and spat it out his open window. "I think it was filled with dish soap!" Horrified, she grabbed her own and took a bite. "Blech! This one is cough syrup!" The garish, gooey center stared back at her with its wicked teeth-mark grin. It mocked her with its indecency and frightened, she threw it out the window. "Let's try another one," she said and went back in for more.
Photo credit

They sped the afternoon away through hill country and subdivisions alike, partaking of this strange sacrament. A bite, a chew, a judgement, a toss. Their fingers and mouths were sticky with disappointment and chewy, artificially flavored bites of love. Their heads were spinning with cloying sweetness and false promises. Yet still they tasted and licked and sniffed and hoped. This one will be better, they thought. This will be the one that changes the rest of what went before. Sick with trial and error, they worked their way through boxes and boxes of misbegotten gain. The red became leering and cheap, no longer an enticement, but a tiresome bore, motions to go through to inevitably reach that empty discouragement of dashed hopes.

Finally they parked, ill and afraid that taste would never go away. They sat amid the destruction of wrappers and the heart boxes all opened now, their insides prodded and shoved aside, revolting, distasteful. They sat and they laughed. They laughed until the tears came and they laughed some more. The tears for the miles of road with jettisoned promise that lay behind them. The bites and bites and bites of all those little loves, tasted and discarded, now melting in the gravel on the side of the road, forgotten or collected by birds. They laughed because now it was just them and the wreckage of a failed experiment - all those paper candy box hearts. They laughed and they promised never to believe that lie again. They laughed and she kissed him, tasting of coffee and all that had gone before.

Thursday, May 10, 2012



That's all that's left. A gristly problem stewing in the back of my head suddenly boiled over and I sat down catch the steam. I caught it all and it burned my hands and made me happy. Whew. Got that down, now I can move on. Save. Time to go do some other non-writing things for a bit and happily so because I'd boiled down that particularly unpalatable piece of meat and made it tender, fall off the bone, delectable spicy BBQ.  And then, the horror.
Sitting down to review and pick up where I left off, I found It. Only It.

Shakespeare never used a laptop. He never sat down and scribbled out drafts in disappearing ink. Maybe he did. Maybe his pet parrot screamed once and startled him and knocked his ink everywhere and he had to say OK, that's it. You are banished. Banish-ed. You have to pronounce the ed separately when you are speaking of Shakespeare.

I don't think I'm like Shakespeare, no delusions that grand around here. I will say I don't particularly care for Shakespeare. I can't decide if that's an ignorant or pretentious thing to say. It's not that I don't understand him or his import. I'm just a little lukewarm about him. Meh. His sonnets are dreadful. I'm not sure that's his fault, though. Sonnets seem to be designed to be dreadful. All that clapping and rhyming. It's clamorous. I wrote a sonnet for a friend of mine and that was dreadful, too. He said it was a little depressing. I have managed to combine both ignorant and pretentious now, with a side of depression. Shakespeare's like Buddy Holly. I understand his pioneering ways, his influence on so many things to come. I recognize his importance and I respect it. But still, meh. Don't tell my husband I said that about Buddy Holly.


You know when macaroni boils over on the stove and then you don't wipe it up right away and there's that gummy crusty mess that's left around the burner? That's what's left in my head from my flash of insight. So I'm picking the crusty bits up and licking them and they taste kind of like macaroni, but you know, it's just not the same. Not at all. It's gross and kind of desperate and strange, actually. Maybe you don't do that. Maybe you wipe off your stove when something boils over. I should probably wipe off the stove and make some lunch instead. Maybe a crust-less PB&J. Something safe, benign and comforting.
Like how I sit here and yammer about Shakespeare and macaroni and llamas.

You don't know about the llamas. That was another place I said something about the llamas. I have typed the word llama at least once every single day this week in vastly different contexts. How does that happen? A huge dromedary takes up residence in my brain and asserts itself whenever possible. Not even where it's possible. She shoehorns herself into the most impossible of places. I kissed a llama on the mouth once. More than once if you must know. It was at a kangaroo farm and, as you probably know, at a roadside kangaroo farm just about anything goes. So. It. I have a luscious dromedary in my brain batting its ridiculously glamorous eyelashes at me. Llama kisses are not as smelly or as lippy or as llama-y as you would imagine. I have kissed worse things on the mouth. Like that guy that had that one dangly baby tooth behind his permanent teeth. Is a llama a dromedary?


Macaroni is supposed to be comfort food, too. I don't really like it, though. Meh. Like Shakespeare and Buddy Holly. I'm not listening to those men right now. I'm listening to raw and uncomfortable alt-country that reminds me of such a tender, broken time for me. Decidedly not Buddy Holly or macaroni. I poke these bruises and feel the warm spread of pain and I kind of like it. Everyone does that. I used to sit on the toilet and count the moles on my thighs and push on all of my bruises. Get out of there if you're done! My mom would holler, You'll get hemorrhoids if you sit in there that long! How does a four-year-old get hemorrhoids? I didn't even know what they were, but you know, just the sound of it. I just noticed an unacceptable typo which I will now fix, but boy, what on earth? They're waiting for you over there with their straight-jackets. I like to pronounce hemorrhoids like this: hemmer-hoids. Saying all the H's. I also say Pinot Gringo instead of Pinot Grigio. Sometimes I forget and say such things in front of strangers and they think me, at best, odd. At worst, ignorant. Sometimes I also say expecially on purpose. What I did not do on purpose, though, was order a black anus steak sandwich at Quizno's once. Even though my husband insists I did.


A friend and I have long believed that some people have It and some people don't. By It, what do we mean? A certain joie de vivre? I can't pronounce French words without sounding like a llama. It is a certain creative spirit, approach to things, an effervescence. Do we all have It? I think so. I think some people forget or lose It. I think some people just don't really care and would rather be comfortable in their brains rather than having llamas and such in there. An oh, what's for dinner tonight? kind of approach to things. Rather than an if I make this for dinner tonight, what does that say about me as a mother or a wife or a person? What does it say about the future of the human race?!  kind of cud chewing. I sometimes pine for the former, but there's a faucet in my kitchen that if you don't shut it off just right will drip, drip, drip and make you completely insane, but the plumbing is old and explosive and I'm afraid if I get in there and monkey around with it, there will be no water at all. Do you know what I'm saying here? So some people see It wandering about their psychic houses and say no thank you, that's a three mile stretch of bad road looking for a heart attack in a handbasket or something like this and they keep on with their dinner plans that are simply dinner and not some manifesto and they are the peaceful ones. The lucky ones.


I'm the one who spends the afternoon chasing down a slippery insight and all I have left is

There is very little peace in that. But apparently there are llamas.

Horrifying children. Check out the poor little dude in the striped shirt.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


So I was thinking about the US Declaration of Independence the other day. I would like to say this turn of thought was because I am the sort of bespectacled intellectual who sits in her garret and strokes her goatee in her lint-free black turtleneck sweater and ponders the important documents of civilization. While I am bespectacled and I do have that one odd whisker, this was not the case. The monkeys checked a DVD of old Schoolhouse Rock! songs out from the library and there was rather a catchy tune to the Declaration of Independence one. Be that as it may, it got me to thinking.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Call me a nerd, but that bit of writing still gives me chills every time I read it. Was there ever a more ingeniously crafted rhetorical sentence? Probably, but this has at least got to be in the top ten. For starters, do not let the tights deceive you. These men had some big brass ones to sit down and write this little love note to the King of England. "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." Thomas Jefferson sat down and licked his quill and said "Look buddy, we got together and there are some pretty obvious things you're missing here." Self-evident. Duh. And then they went on to outline a few of these no-brainers and started a war. A war that started a country. I'm a citizen of that country, as are many of my readers (To my non-American readers: I promise this won't be some sort of flag-waving manifesto. Just keep reading.) In spite of the many shortcomings of this country and the particularly embarrassing way that we behave when abroad and the really obnoxious xenophobic things that we utter publicly, it's a pretty cool country. It's kind of like your mother. It drives you crazy, but you love it anyway. But I promised no flag waving. (Oh! Have I got a flag story for you! I'll have to remember to tell that sometime.)

What I really want to talk about is that last little bit. The "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" bit. I know, I know, they originally wrote "pursuit of Wealth" and then changed it, but let's assume they changed it because they realized that wealth does not equal happiness. So let's stick with Happiness. Are these truths self evident? Is it obvious that all men are created equal? Is it such a no-brainer that our unalienable rights are to these things first and foremost? Do we live as if they are? (These can be answered by my non-American friends, too.)

According to our wig wearing granddaddies, you have the irrefutable right to Life. Do you choose life? Do we go out there and exercise that right every day? That right to live and live fully and as we believe we ought to? Or do we loiter around the edges of it wondering when it will come and give us a wink and a nod? Is it obvious that we've got this thing called Life going on?

How about Liberty? Liberty is tricky, isn't it? We certainly believe that we are free, right? No one is my master. I am free to be me. Just like the magazines and the television and my parents and my peers and that stray nagging voice in the back of my skull tell me I am. I am at Liberty to say what I want, but you over there! You shut up because you're wrong. Or what about just the quiet acquiescence of our Liberty to someone else because we step silently aside and look the other way when someone needs defending? Liberty is tricky and her head is very spiky, so I wouldn't want to give birth to her, but she does have that poem that she mutters when anyone stops to listen: "Give me your tired, your poor/ your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Just as long as those huddled masses don't irritate me or want to breathe my air or don't try to take my money or live on my block or want to marry my kids or something. Yeah, Liberty is a bit thorny. Moving on.

This is my favorite. The pursuit of Happiness. If I walked up to you and snatched your purse, you would pursue me. You would run like the dickens in my direction and try your hardest to catch up with me. You wouldn't worry if you happened to stub your toe along the way, or what other people were thinking about you while you ran, heaving, panting, arms and knees akimbo. Honestly, if you were actually chasing me, you would catch me in no time flat. I'm not a very fast runner and I'm quite clumsy so I would probably run into a lamppost or something and knock myself out. But have you been in a high-speed chase with Happiness lately? I'm no expert on such things, but I have found that when I hang out on the corner like a hooker and wait for the Happiness car to drive by and ask me "Hey, you wanna have a good time?" it doesn't really pan out for me and it takes forever and my feet start to hurt from the stilettos and my pleather skirt chafes and it seems like all the other girls are getting theirs and I'm left standing between a Honey Bucket and a hard place. But, but, buuuuut... when I don my running shoes and head off in hot pursuit, Happiness is just out for a morning jog and I smash right into it and knock it over and roll all around in it before either of us know what hit us. [Side note: If ever I start an ironic throwback indie rock band, I will name it the Dreadful Metaphors. Don't know why I just thought of that.] But like I say, I'm no expert. But you are. You know what makes you happy. You know who has your purse. Are you running after it?

In conclusion, (Ha ha! I just love that. It's like the end of a speech in a grade school oration contest.) these fellows with their slaves and their shiny buckles on their shoes and their giant signatures (way to make those calligraphy lessons work for you, John Hancock!) didn't have it all figured out yet. Over two hundred years later we're still figuring it out, but they sat down at their feathered old-timey laptops and said "Look here. These things oughtta be a law. They should be obvious and they should be guaranteed." Were they at the time? No. Are they now? They should be.

What are your self-evident truths?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Exhaust Fumes From the Word Mines

Author's note: My deepest apologies to my gentle readers for the appalling lack of quality in this post. As a peace offering, I have offered you several links to good things to read. You may just want to click on those and ignore all of the rest.

I had a writing breakthrough today. I will share my secret. I moved my laptop two feet. Kelly at Southern Fried Children posted about the state of her desk the other day. I can honestly say that I had not thought about my writing space until then.

We have a coffee table that lives in a corner up against the back of the couch. We moved it back there when the Hooligan was still the age that goes careening into sharp edges leading with his head and we never moved it back for one reason or another. The laptop lives on the coffee table there so when I write, I usually just sit on the floor in the corner and use the coffee table for a desk.

Last week I was complaining that my neck really hurt and the Chief Lou suggested that it might be from hunching on the floor to write and perhaps I should consider moving this new-fangled laptop invention to another locale where it might be more comfortable to sit and write. It took me a week to do it. But today I threw caution to the wind and picked up the laptop and moved it two feet to the dining table behind me so I could sit in an actual chair at an actual table. Brilliant, I know. The difference was amazing. Not only did I get a considerable amount of work done, I also managed to send a rather lengthy email to a blog friend of mine commenting on her thought-provoking post rather than just responding in the comments section like a good blogger, and I also managed to offend two of my friends' husbands on Facebook. How's that for productive? Look out world, I've got a chair and I can feel both of my legs now. Nothing's going to stop me now.

I had a long discussion with a complete stranger about the nature of introversion, parenting styles, and whales today while the Hooligan got to show a small girl the wonders of climbing through a tube and hooting. I don't go out of my way to talk to people, usually. If you may recall, I'm a little bit challenged in this regard. I'm proud to report that I didn't blurt a single inappropriate or embarrassing thing while I chatted with this woman for an hour. I really think that moving the laptop has helped me not only work better, but to grow as a person.

I had a long, meandering chat with my real estate agent today, too. She is a fellow blurter, I've discovered. I knew I liked her for a reason. So today she called to tell me that the house she looked at for us seemed fine if we wanted to come take a look, but that it gave her the creeps. She also informed me that she attended yoga class this morning, that she has no fax machine at home, and that she was still in her pajamas. I trust this woman implicitly to help us find a house. She probably uses her laptop at the table. She's a professional.

I had a heady post to write today about the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Really I did. I'll write it soon. But for now, I suggest you go and check out Michelle at Buttered Toast Rocks because she forgot to shave her legs today, and then read the comments because it appears that Larissa from Papa is a Preacher also forgot to shave hers. And then I remembered that time I forgot to shave my legs for six months. And then you should swing by Tara's place: Faith In Ambiguity. She's got a fantastic discussion going about how we are all being strangled by our children, or about how the French made up for being surrender monkeys by being better parents, or wait. That doesn't sound right. It's about how we can all be better women if we would just move our laptops to the table.

Monday, May 7, 2012


A friend of mine owns the best bookstore in the world. It's nestled in the heart of Pike Place Market. It is her passion and her art. She's got impeccable taste in books and an excitement for literature and reading that shames even the most voracious of us. Her free time is spent culling thrift stores, book sales, private collections and library cast-offs for just the perfect products to line her shelves. Customers in her store are treated to personal and perceptive service. I like to sit on her park bench by the door and listen to her while she listens to her customers:

"I'm looking for a book for my uncle."
"What does he like to read?"
"I'm not really sure. He likes history."

She will start from this maddening introduction and gently prod and chat until she has determined the perfect book for the uncle. A radiant customer leaves with their package and the knowledge that they have selected a unique and meaningful gift. Usually they leave with a tiny crush on this spirited and intelligent proprietress as well. I have more than a tiny crush on her, myself, and I am wise to her ways.

She was my first friend in a new city. When I met her, I had a toddler and a newborn and a quiet desperation. I don't make friends easily. I get bored with people, irritated with their children, lost in my own thoughts and bogged down in insecurity. She ignored all that, invited herself over for lunch and asked me "What are you reading right now?" Almost every conversation with her starts like that, even now. It's a gauge we use to see where we are in our lives when we haven't seen each other in a while. 

We got together for the first time in months over the weekend. She brought me a copy of Infinite Jest that she found. I gave her a stack of cookbooks for her store. Our girls took off and picked up right where they left off; where they've been leaving off and picking up since they were less than three years old. She is reading Japanese magical realism in her native Italian. I am reading a stack of books on writing. 

"Finally," she said. "I have been waiting for you to write this." She waded right through my neurosis, my effusive explanations, my insecurity and said "Finally." I have been mulling over the roles people play in our lives, what draws us to one another and what repels us. I have been spent the last several weeks recalling and reliving a whole hodgepodge of emotions long buried or forgotten. It is sometimes daunting work, but compelling and motivating, too. I think of this friend, this person dropped into my life when I feared I was nothing more than a milk dispenser, diaper changer, and a target for bodily fluids. She embraced that mess and asked me "What are you reading?" to remind me of the parts of me that were all my own - my intellect, my imagination, my thirst for the written word - and helped me carry on, firmer in my understanding and appreciation of myself.

And now, when I have a different sort of newborn I'm tending, when I'm still fraught with insecurity, overwhelmed and daunted by my undertaking, she has done it again. "Finally," she said. "I have been waiting for you to write this."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I'll Know When I See It

Oh look at that one! It's great. Well, except for the smell, and that whole thing going on with the one wall there and there's a window that's leaking. But it's great, right?!

Note the edge of desperation. Possibly it's because I've been thinking about dating a lot lately. That sounds wrong. I'm not thinking of me currently dating anyone except my husband. Although, it has been said of us that we do still act like we're dating. I'll take that as a compliment. I'm working on a project. It's a project about projects, in a way, so my dating life has been shuffled around to the forefront of the rummage sale in my head.

Possibly it's because I've been thinking about dating a lot lately, but I'm feeling a little desperate. That also sounds wrong. I'm desperate, but I wasn't particularly desperate while I was dating. Most of the time. But right now, this thing I've been feeling lately, reminds me of the time that maybe once or twice I did feel like that.

We're looking for a house. It feels like everyone around us is happily pairing up with their perfect houses and living their perfect lives and we're the ugly kids on the edge of the dance. We finally work up our confidence to go over and make an offer on one, with our sweaty palms and our shaky knees and our tiny earnest money and just as we're about to get there, someone dashing and confident and gorgeous steps in front of us and takes it. Oh well, we say. They probably would have said no anyway.

I look at houses and I think "Oh, this one is handsome, but not my type. The roof also appears to be a little leaky."

I look at other houses and I think "I'm in the wrong place. They will never accept me."

I look at still other houses and I think "If I could change this, this, and this... then maybe I could live with it."

And the most humiliating of all, well-meaning people say "Oh, what about this one? I think it would be perfect!" and I look and I cry. Because it's under a bridge, or the bathroom is caving in, or it reeks of cat food and old lady and I think someone died there and was eaten by cats. Or because it seems perfectly fine on the surface and then you look deeper and the 147 Marilyn Monroe posters in the basement are covering some serious mold. And then I cry. I cry because I don't feel like I deserve a nice house, that my expectations are too high, that I should accept my lot in life and be grateful for the mold and the Marilyn Monroe posters and the corpse and the cat pee smell.

People who have done this before smile smugly and nod while they glance around their own cat-pee free houses and say "Don't worry, honey. It will be your turn. When you find the right one, you'll just know." And I hate them for that because I know that they are right, but I am tired and I am hungry and my clothes smell like the living of dozens of other people because I've traipsed through their lives and looked in their cupboards and in the dark places where no one goes - the furnace room, the basement, the garage, some showers. I've looked at the hopeful pipes and utility closets and "cozy eat-in kitchens" of strangers who have gussied and styled and preened, all with their own scent of desperation and I have found them wanting. I hate them and I'm tired. I hear myself saying the dreaded words "Maybe we'll just go live in the suburbs. Maybe we should just settle."

I'm not asking for much. I'm just asking for perfect. But you don't understand. "Perfect" for me is flawed and quirky and wonderful and strange. I don't need the flashiest, the showiest, the latest craze, the most stylish. I just need right for me. I have standards you couldn't possibly understand. I just know I'll know when I see it. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

One Love

He wasn't the first, nor was he the worst. He certainly wasn't the last.
He just... was.
He was neither good looking, nor smart. He was a tedious and dull conversationalist. He didn't have any passions, to speak of. He didn't believe anything. He wasn't a very hard worker, but he wasn't spectacularly lazy, either. He wasn't particularly good-hearted, but he wasn't evil. He didn't seek any kind of greater good; he didn't really seek anything at all.
He just kind of... was.

He was a friend of friends. We ran loosely in the same circles. He was always just kind of... there. He wasn't particularly outgoing or funny. In fact, the only reason I noticed him at all was because I found him vaguely repellent. He had bad skin. Not acne, per se. Not the sort of grotesque acne that, when outgrown, would give him a certain pockmarked ruggedness. He just had random pustules. Mammoth whiteheads in odd places that would stay around for days. I couldn't talk to him without wanting to reach out and pop them. His chin was minimal and it seemed like all of his teeth grew in on top of each other right in the front. He was a little bit shorter than I am, and a little bit pigeon-toed. He laughed at his own jokes and did Beavis and Butt-Head impersonations. We had nothing in common. Except Bob Marley. We dated for six months.

He bought me a One Love bumper sticker for my car, which pretty much guaranteed my getting pulled over all the time. He said we had that One Love. That universal, all encompassing, gather up the world in a happy ganja haze kind of love. I nodded and averted my eyes. I am not a Rastafarian, but I do understand One Love. It's the kind of love that sees a boy whose parents are in the midst of a messy divorce, whose lifelong friend and older brother-figure is dying of AIDS. A boy who dropped out of college because it was just too hard and it made no sense to him. A boy who loved a girl who was maddening and foreign to him. A boy who was trying to be a man and had no idea how. A boy whose heart had been broken by people he loved the most; a boy who needed love. It's the kind of love that sees through the pimples and the pigeon toes and commits to six months of excruciating boredom and squalor because she wants to help this boy.

But people are not puppies or kittens. They cannot be gathered and cared for and fed and then released back into the wilds of their own lives. I mistook my compassion for humanity in general for commitment to this one particular person. For six months he tried so hard to be someone he wasn't, could never be, for me. He hurled himself against the wall of my expectations over and over, always coming up short. Even worse, I degraded him with my loving efforts: I paid his rent, I gave him rides to work when his own car got repossessed, I tried to dress him and feed him and convince him to read. I didn't let him be who he was, find his own way, make his own mistakes because I was so intent on improving him. I am ashamed by the sheer hubris of this notion as I write.

I was young, inexperienced, reeling from my own broken heart. Rather than face my own mess, I went about trying to keep someone else's house. In my effort to hide from myself, I coated my intentions with love, with generosity, with compassion. When he asked me to marry him, I almost threw up. I told him no, that couldn't possibly happen. When he sobbed and said "Where am I supposed to go?" the ornate Emperor's clothing I had constructed fell away. I stood there in my naked cruelty and had no answer for him. He wasn't an intellectual, but even he could see that I had never really loved him. I was in love with the idea of transformation. I was in love with myself. I had been using him for half a year to tell me the things I didn't believe about myself: that I was beautiful, that I was good, that I was lovable, that I was loving. I told myself I was helping him.

I shared this story with a friend who said I made my ex-boyfriend sound pathetic. "I think you should talk more about his good qualities, in more detail. The way you've described him, nobody would want to date or be him." I didn't disagree with this critique. In fact, I spent several hours trying to think of good qualities to balance out the portrait I'd painted. I couldn't think of a single one. Not because they weren't there, but because I had never bothered to see them. I spent six months of my life in a relationship with someone I found repellent, someone I didn't see except for his flaws. I spent six months of my life looking into the mirror his adoration held up for me, admiring nothing but my own warped reflection. I never looked around the jagged edges of myself to see the person who stood before me. No, he was not the pathetic one in our scenario.

He moved across the country after we broke up. I have no idea what happened to him. I haven't thought about him in years. As I remember him now, this half a person I dated but never really knew, I wish him well. I hope he found someone who, unlike me, treated him well. Someone who appreciates him for who he is. I hope that he continued to believe what we used to sing along with Bob Marley: "Every little thing will be all right."