Sep 30, 2008

38 Things To Do Before I Die Turn 39

I am going to take part in a list making party that I wasn't actually invited to join. I saw it over at Schmutzie's blog who got it from her friend's blog Doobleh-vay. I find list making irresistable. I once filled an entire journal with lists. It was a diary in list form with lists sprouting sublists. It was quite impressive. Some people make lists specifically so they can cross things off of it later. I rarely cross anything off of my lists. Because for me it's all about putting something down on paper. Make it official. Make it stick in your mind better. I used to check things off my lists. At some point it just wasn't ever as satisfying to cross things off as it was to just write a new list.

Wouldn't it be cool to have a blog called "A list a day"? Or a book called "A Life In Lists"? Or "A Year In Lists"?

Yeah, so maybe you don't think lists are all that. (Freak!) Lists are like poetry, little succinct scraps of language laid out in specific form. The beauty is in the juxtaposition between the rigidity of the form and the fluidity of the intention.

Here is my list of 38 things to do before I turn 39:

1. Read two books.
2. Say "no" to five people wanting my time.
3. Make and use baking soda tooth powder.
4. Publish one issue of my dream magazine.
5. Reduce the size of my belly enough to be able to see my hoo-ha.
6. Start a new compost pile-and use it.
7. Make a string of festive porch lights using recycled materials.
8. Finish the two quilts that are waiting for you. Winter is coming!
9. Make a new pair of pants for self in spite of no weight loss.
10. Learn to change the oil in the Vespa.
11. Ride bicycle to work at least once a week.
12. Learn to use the Rebel XT.
13. Finish organizing my sewing room.
14. Clean up the guest bedroom.
15. Finish building the monastery garden.
16. Spread wildflower seeds in an empty field.
17. Read more about the teachings of Buddha.
18. Get the house completely clean, just once.
19. Write a poem that doesn't suck.
20. Learn to make spring rolls.
21. Take more walks.
22. Stop going out to dinner because you can't afford it.
23. Play more chess with Max.
24. Make ginger soda.
25. Eat less cheese or you will resemble a big hunk of orange Tillamook.
26. Listen to more classical music since it's got the power to calm you.
27. Make potions like a witch.
28. Don't buy the charms and bracelet you wanted from the toy store.
29. Be kinder to BBQ Sue or she might not think you appreciate her.
30. Get out the accordion and practice your favorite songs.
31. Find out how to make root beer.
32. Stretch your body every day.
33. Wear make-up at least four times a week since it always makes you feel better.
34. Stay on the course you know you need to take, don't get distracted from the purpose.
35. Put up a gallery of family pictures in the stairwell so they'll all feel closer.
36. Organize kitchen binder.
37. Make muffins.
38. Every day be thankful you aren't Angelina Jolie.

That was so much harder than I thought it would be. Partly because I'm going to be 39 years old in just three months. Not much time. How nice it must be to be 2 years old when your list would look like this:

1. Eat more.
2. Poop more.

Then again, that was a pretty dull time.

Sep 28, 2008

The River Deep

A wonderful weekend has passed with friends and family. Light like liquid gold floods my blood. Bounty is everywhere if only I can contain it and keep it. Motherhood is everywhere if I look for it. Fortune is in the details. Music is how we're all going to survive, as has always been true. Love isn't a volcano, or a riptide of desire. Love is the return of fall year after year after year. Love is the endurance of partnership, the spirit seeing into the shadows and piercing the light. Love is friends who, without lipstick, still see the glamour in every hour spent together. Love is knowing who a person really is and wanting to open that explosion of considerable complications.

Love is peace. Love is recognition. Love is in the details. My love sits down with me at a scarred table covered in dirty dishes and old food and says he will wait here with me for the next feast. Full of admiration and expectation he sees me as the director and seeks to whisper only suggestions. He always grabs me a plate from the buffets, of which I have considerable fear.

Love is always wanting to know more. Love is unfolding petal by petal the worn truth to find the fresh interior. Love isn't passion, it's constance. It's a ride across a vast ocean with just you and your other.

Love comes first. Then comes the constant dialog with self. Love allows the self to prosper in the light of comfort. In a cushion of acceptance. River currents rush towards the ocean while partnerships cling to the banks to take a slower pace. Self is there too. Holding slick rocks in the dappled light, holding the current like an impression of the heart.

Notes to self:

Must pumice feet if insist on wearing flip flops. Might scare away good people, nice friends. Plus, old nail polish is very questionable. Looks sloppy. Unkempt. No one likes a ramshackle foot on a woman. Remember man's obsession with dainty feminine feet. Don't worry about your hairy toes though, because until the "recession" is over there is no budget for lasering toe hair.

Why does sister Tara not have chin hairs like self? She thinks she got the short straw. Must remind her of seven five chin hairs plus hairy toes. Also of interest: the uni-brow she was not cursed blessed with. Me and Frida rock. Glad not to have a pole up my torso. Not lucky. Frida prettier than self, but unlucky.

Back is stiff all night like an old woman's. Gimpy hip/stiff back- kind of seems like old age has arrived before menopause. Has the world gone mad? Or do I have a tumor of some sort. Brain sometimes feels like a tumor. Very inconvenient. If I didn't always injure self doing yoga, would suggest yoga. Stretch in the morning this week. And take Allieve. Pam says it's like angels come to take pain away.

Must make grape juice tomorrow. Must find out if stomping grapes with athlete's foot not recommended. Must find out if Greeks and Italians were always fungus free while stomping grapes? Interesting to find out if athletes foot troubled people like Alexander the Great or Cleopatra. Wouldn't it be funny if Cleopatra suffered from jock itch?

Fruit flies suck.

Bob Dylan writes better than I will ever write. Must not let this deter self from trying. His tribute to Woodie Guthrie was incredible. Dylan is as genius as Mozart. Who writes as well now? It's more the words than it is the music though the combination makes me feel like a wisp of a spirit next to a number 5 hurricane. Who is telling our stories now? Maybe everything that needs writing has already been written. That's the most terrifying thought I've ever had.

Why does Pippa like beer?

Animals are as important to me as humans. Which is kind of funny to say because I know that humans are animals. They aren't even superior to other animals. I'll reevaluate my opinion when humans manage to stick around longer than cockroaches have. I think a life without strong connections to animals is much emptier than a life without kids.

Must not draw attention to the darkening mustache hairs. As if chin hairs weren't bad enough.

Must get another bad haircut. Or let hair grow out. If hair grows out must wear make-up at all times to avoid looking like scary biker bitch. Must not tress hair up in fifteen rubber bands all at once. Wonder what that unfortunate style is called? Getting hair cut is like getting a giant crush to ego. Love the feel of freshly trimmed hair. Love the feel of a good cut. Most cuts make me want to cry. So maybe get hair whacked when drunk. Hate being drunk though. Maybe should not mind being drunk in order to not mind bad haircut. Sometimes think hairdressers are sadistic and just don't like me because I'm not a debutante.

Knees too big to be a debutante. Always known that.

It was embarrassing to pass out while running the 400 run in fourth grade. In front of the love of my childhood.

Deep secret: red heads and curly haired people are like deep mysteries to me and I harbor prejudices against them as a group but never as individuals. Said childhood love was a short red headed boy. It went against my instincts to love him. I would not have wasted three years of my childhood dedicated to my silent love for him if I could have known that he was going to be really enamored of psychedelic drugs as a young adult. I cannot be attracted to men with really curly hair. sometimes I see curly haired women and don't like them because of their curly hair.*

Must make a list of aversions to see what it looks like as a group. Possibly should make now while in possession of beer.

List of aversions and fears:

  • Buffets. I have buffet fear.
  • Dull pencils. They squeak and shine and make me want to vomit.
  • Parties. The time I silenced a whole room really made an impression.
  • Tasting sauces by themselves. Really freaks me out.
  • Someone else's scent on my pillow.
  • Dry feet. Makes me sick to my stomach when my feet are really dry.
  • Large groups of children. Lord Of The Flies could really happen. Kids are savages.
  • Being pregnant. I have lots of nightmares about it.
  • Giving birth. Not warm and fuzzy. I have lots of nightmares about this too.
  • Hearing people chew their food.
  • Hearing myself chew my food.
  • Hearing myself swallow liquid.
  • Making phone calls. Love e-mails. So much more relaxed. Phone fear.
  • Shower water on nipples. Heebee jeebies. I have a method to get around this.
  • Vomiting. Can count the times on my fingers. Would rather die than vomit.
  • Playing games. All games. As discussed many times.
  • Other people's breath on me.
  • Sharing food. It makes me panic.
  • Bunching socks. Max got this one. Poor fella.
  • Dry lips. Can propel me into hyperventilation. Hence addiction to lip balm.
  • Bladder infections. Because peeing is important. Especially with a small bladder.
  • Lack of bathrooms. Because I always need to pee.
  • Awareness of transition between wakefulness and sleep.
  • Violence. Duh.
  • Being touched. Have improved a lot on this one. Still prickly like thistle.
  • Music being played too low.
  • Music being played too high.
  • Music and TV both audible at same time.
  • Too many different sources of noise at same time.
  • Smoke alarms. Hate them. Hate them. Would like to tear them all out. Hate them.
  • Pap smears. Hate being touched. Especially with cold metal in my hoo-ha.
  • Medical mysteries. Create obsessive thoughts.
  • Low light. Darkness is fine. Well lit spaces fine. Hate low light, especially in kitchen. Panic.
  • Busy restaurants, bars, clubs. Much prefer either slow or empty ones.
  • Going to the movies when crowded. Makes me panic to find seats in a crowded movie theater.
  • Bright sun. Makes me angry.
  • Dry wind. Also makes me angry.
  • Museums. Overstimulation almost always certain.
  • Afraid of being a hypochondriac. To the point I sometimes don't take care of things.
  • Going underground. Claustrophobia but only when underground. Otherwise like small spaces.
  • Heights. Always want to hurl self from bridges and balconies.
  • Party lines. I fear more than one voice on phone at once. Want to scream when it happens.
  • Conference calls. See above.
  • Other people being pregnant.
  • Fire. Not just because we had a house fire. But that didn't help.
  • Flying on planes. Though I LOVE airports. Go figure.
  • Losing spouse. Panic panic panic.
  • Losing son. Panic panic panic panic.
  • New people in my house. Especially if unexpected.
  • Riding in cars. Much improved with medication.
  • Changing my evening routine. Like parting the sea.
  • Phone ringing. Rarely admit to this one. Sound of ringing phone very stressful.
  • Yelling. Deeply distressed by others yelling. Since having a kid I yell a lot myself.
  • Smell of man-pee. So much stronger than woman-pee. Not kidding.
  • Adults obsessed with childhood toys.
  • Entropy. This is a family-wide aversion. Philip, Max, and I are all freaked out by entropy.
  • Losing teeth. Constant nightmares about losing teeth.
  • Smell of sweat, on self especially. Can smell it a thousand yards away on others.
  • Returning merchandise to stores. I'm nearly incapable of doing it.
  • Sudden food aversions. Comes over me without warning. Totally random.
  • Musicals. Not kidding. Hate most of them violently.
  • Junk mail. Makes me panic. It piles and then makes me panic more.
  • Sink of water for doing dishes. Danger. Fear. Running water better.
  • Changing smell of hoo-ha. Changing smell of elemental self scary.
  • Driving cars. Death trap.
  • Taking tests. Makes me panic. Even if I know material like own heart beat.
  • Expectation of sex. Valentine's day is a firm "no sex" day.
  • Listening to anyone's heartbeat. Shouldn't hear such an internal noise.
  • To stop listening to "The River Deep" by The Devil Makes Three. Once I start listening to it I think it is the sum total of life and I can't hear anything else.
  • Touching cold butter. Smell of it lingering on hands very upsetting. Also can't eat cold butter.
  • Balloons. I secretly and quietly let the air out of them when kid is asleep to dispel my dread.
  • Clowns. Make me so uncomfortable my skin gets itchy and crawls.

I think I'm going to drink "The River Deep" and fall madly asleep. I think I might never wake up with the mud splattered on my face. Because this music has wrapped me deep into its lore.

Note: I keep having to add things to the list as I remember them.

*Deep seated mistrust of curly haired people. Be assured that I have met and loved many a curly haired person because I always overcome my fear of the group as a whole to appreciate the merits of the individual.
Beware The Impostor!
(plus thoughts about the cold months ahead)

When you come to my house the first thing you will be greeted by is my ghetto gate behind which my ferocious dog will be frantically trying to draw attention to you. We like to make guests feel welcome around here. The next thing you will notice is me standing on the porch looking smashing in my favorite chicken-

But wait!!! That isn't me! It's an impostor! BBQ Sue is a master at disguises. She stands around all day imitating me. How can you tell the difference between Sue and me?

  • Sue has no ass. I have the equivalent of two.

  • Unlike me Sue is not spazzy, she never waves her arms around wildly.

  • Clothes hang sadly off of her skeletal frame. My clothes don't even fit over my thighs anymore.

  • Sue was too chicken to get her nose pierced.

  • Sue makes teenage boys hot*. As a woman raising a son who will one day be a teenager I am pleased that I do not share this problem.

  • Sue cannot cook.

In spite of the funky weather we've had this year and the fact that I lamely planted tomatoes very very late in the season, I am getting some ripening in my yard. What to do with them all? I love it when people say they have so many tomatoes they don't know what to do with them. I always want to say "Are you retarded?! Give them to me you idiot!" Ha. No, I'm not so mean. But I can think of so many things to do with tomatoes. I can eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Today I'm using the tomato sauce I made this week to make a white bean and spinach sauce for pasta to which I'm thinking of adding some broiled or baked eggplant. I am also making a ricotta tomato gratin using all cherry tomatoes. I am thinking of putting the recipe for it up here. I made the ricotta yesterday. I am thinking of doing a tutorial for that as well.

My plan for the twenty pounds of romas my mom and I picked from my community garden row is to slow roast them and then freeze them. Wonderful to add to pasta in the middle of winter.

My dreams have been crazy vivid lately. I sometimes remember them as though they really happened and then have to flag them in my brain as dream snippets so I don't get continually fooled by them. The toy store has figured strongly in them.

I would very much like to know what this whole bank crisis is going to do to mortgage interest rates. Will they skyrocket? We were thinking of refinancing our home since there is supposedly nothing but worse economic times ahead. I am starting to hear the "D" word being tossed around. This is funny since our country has only recently acknowledged that we might actually be experiencing a recession. Some people like to think we'll never experience a depression like "The Great Depression" again. Why? Why not? It's the same as how so many people think we could never have another Holocaust, or Viet Nam (which we're currently in the middle of), or another civil war. Dudes, there are lots of people in the US who are still ardently waving their confederate flags.

Things will never be exactly the same. Certain details will change. But history repeats itself all the time with similar plagues, wars, and famines. The main thing we remember about the Viet Nam war was that half the country didn't think we should join that war, we spent years trying to win the war and couldn't, and finally brought the troops home battered-damaged-and not beloved by their people. The similarities are very clear. I know lots of people will say: "but it's totally different because that war was fought in Viet Nam not the middle east..." details. The political implications for our people here at home are very similar.

Anyway. Didn't mean to veer off there. It's just that I don't know exactly what our current crisis will mean for mortgages and not knowing makes it difficult to prepare for hunkering down. Will interest rates skyrocket? With the government not willing to acknowledge the truth of any current situation, it makes planning very difficult. What will credit card companies do in response? Will they crack down on card members? Will their rates be more or less competitive?

If we have another great depression, will me and my family be able to survive it? And where will the equivalent of "the dust bowl" be this time? If a depression comes, what kind of leader will be best equipped to steer us through it with the least amount of starvation and job loss? Now that I have a house I love, will I lose everything again?

What are the most depression proof jobs? That is something we should all really examine, isn't it? What can we do to protect ourselves?

I am already thinking about the cold winter months coming. Heating this house didn't seem exorbitantly expensive last early spring, but electricity prices have gone up.

I am working hard on reducing my water usage. I don't think we waste a whole lot of water except when I'm doing dishes. I use my dishwasher for most things yet because I cook a lot there are always a lot of things that don't do as well in the dishwasher that I must wash by hand. I am training myself to turn the water off while scrubbing. I like having a stream of warm water running over the dishes I'm washing because I can see what's left more easily and it's soothing. It wastes a lot of water though. So now I'm scrubbing heaps with just the soapy sponge and then rinsing all at once, if I miss something I can scrub again. I am also saving the water I use to rinse vegetables to throw on the garden.

It takes time to change old habits. But it's good to do it. I think we'll install a laundry line along the length of our covered porch too for drying some loads on a line even in winter. It's just about too late for installing a laundry line outdoors. We could do one in the basement too, though the ceiling is very low. I think I might do it anyway. This could really cut down on our energy bills this winter. Clothes take a lot longer to dry in damp weather, but who cares?

Time to make some extra blankets too. I think all of us here at the farmhouse should have snug robes to wear around the house and blankets to wrap up in. I don't have to buy any fabric for that either since I already have tons.

Lots to think about. Curtains to make too. I clearly have my head stuck in nest and hunker mode. How about all of you out there? Any thoughts to share? Preparations for the winter? Preparations for a continually sinking economy? Anyone out there found themselves accidentally addressing BBQ Sue instead of me? Anyone out there have too many tomatoes? Talk to me on this quiet Sunday.

*Philip overheard two teen boys gawking at Sue when she was outside our store. One of them said to the other "She's making me hot."

Sep 26, 2008

A Life In Narrative

My feelings frequently tangle as they reach towards the light, looking for the nourishment of expression, aching for water to quench the drying instrument of connection. In so many ways keeping this blog has been the best life preserver, the best sanity preserver. For two years I have spewed here. Let go here. Risked a great deal here. Let myself bleed freely and mostly honestly. Before I put it here it all had to go somewhere.

It went into notebooks. Fervently written in the night hours just as I sometimes do here. Religiously written in the morning over coffee as I usually do here. Spilling and spilling and spilling as though there was a limitless supply of words and guts. I have no idea where it all comes from or why the flow so rarely stems. Why if I get the slightest bit moved by something I see, hear, read, or touch it must be regurgitated in a thousand thoughts reaching out from the core like little independent branches cutting into the skyline.

I never run dry. I never run out. Though I can be dragging my physical bones through the required actions of life, the brain never sleeps. My brain never sleeps. Never pauses for breath. If I don't write here it must go elsewhere. I have layers of handwritten words. Typewritten pages in which I barely bothered to correct typos because to do so would impede the urgency of the moment.

Coming here is like an anchor. Using a voice that speaks intimately to a person, to you, makes it feel all a little less crazy. Because before I had this blog, I was still writing to you. Yes, YOU. I don't even know who you are.* Wouldn't it be a tremendous bust in the gut if "you" turned out to not exist at all? It doesn't really matter. I'd just go back to writing narratives to myself and to the ethereal others out there who I imagine are waiting to listen. Who are up at night as I am, plying their own version of words, in paint, or food, or photographs, or other words. Wrapping their stamp around the universe to say "hello". And again "hello, you."

Pictures have turned into words too. Tonight I was reading about roses. Then I was watching the last of the first season of The Tudors and it was causing brain collisions. Pageantry. The egotism of monarchy which is only slightly more honest in its egotism than modern government. Roses, blossoms, wedding beds, marriage, castles, castle light, and all the years that have accumulated history around us all. Flowers with names like "maiden's thigh" (Cuisse de Nymphe) speak of our most intimate moments. All of this reminded me that I have touched the thick walls of real castles. That I have felt the sea wind whipping my hair across my eyes where cannons have been fired. I have seen the light changing by the seconds across a parade of minutiae and tasted how gorgeous it is, this spec of remembrance, this fleeting connectedness we all share.

I am never happier than when I'm alone, but only when I have a very secure sense of belonging.

These pictures are what flashed through my head when I was watching the Tudors, feeling something come loose in my heart, it was the heady clear air of these pictures I took on my trip to Scotland that I needed to see because they remind me of feeling good, of feeling sure of who I am, that I have a place in history, that I am part of this world. More than that they remind me of how it feels to walk alone, with family close by, family that seems to love me even though I am not the same as I used to be, even though I have shown myself to be vulnerable and irrational at times, and larger than life really allows. And large.

In these pictures I am alone in body, enjoying the sound of the wind, the crisp sunshine on my cheek, the way the light floods the tiny daisies in the grass in front of the cannons, but I carry with me the weight of the love of my family. My sister and my dad who are hanging out drinking coffee together just a few hundred feet from me. My brother who is several miles away enjoying some time by himself too. My mother who always seems to be with me in spirit, though in actuality she was a few thousand miles away. My father (biological) loves me too and even though we fight and carry on with arguments...I carry his love with me too in these pictures. And of course, no one, no one has ever loved me more than my dear Philip and my acerbic wonderful son.

When I look at these pictures I see what a little freedom feels like to a loved person. I love to be away from my family. I love to wander off, to think alone, to absorb light into my eyes and memorize hillsides. To speak with the flora and fauna in that unlanguage we know from when we first crawled out of the sludge of water from whence we came. I remember what it feels like to do everything not knowing I had any love at all. Feeling completely alone. It's so different then. Empty and slick like cold metal, reflecting-not absorbing-light.

I think Henry VIII was an ass. And an asshole. I think he was a self serving nasty piece of work. In case anyone is concerned that I am being swayed by TELEVISION and its evil lies...I've actually read non-fiction about this time period and Henry the VIII and the fictional book called "Anne Of The Thousand Days". When you behead several wives that's what we modern folk like to call a serial killer. But, whatever. I am caught up in the story.

It makes me think of flowers. Of light on stone walls. It makes me think of how people thought and acted in courts that were, by necessity, lit with candles. It makes me think of the details that set well known history into action. It reminds me that I am happy to be a peasant-type person. It makes me realize how I don't like anyone losing their face. I don't like that anyone has to lose. This reminds me that my Grandfather and my dad (the one I grew up with) saying that I'm too soft. That I will never succeed if I can't handle the hard truth: people lose. Try not to let it be you.

Try not to let it be me.

They're right, of course. And I resent it. My father, I think, would also agree.

Well, my only retaliation is that I was made this way. My shadows and my light were all there the moment I came out looking like a wrinkled old man. Which is what I'm starting to look like again. Ashes to ashes and all that. I hear the dead, I hear the dying, I hear the sorrow, I hear the losing and it all whistles through my own soul like my own voice. There is no separation between me and them. We come from the same source, the same life slurry.

Tonight I am thinking of happy light. The kind of light that goes through your eyes and into your spirit in a pageant of color. These pictures here are punctuation for my words. They reflect a joy in aloneness while leaning on togetherness. Tonight I wish for everyone to have (and to recognize, however flawed) the pool of love that has been reserved for them. Go out into the light and drink it.

See those tangles of stems and flowers reaching for the sky without reserve? Be those flowers and stamens unashamedly flaunting what nature gives. Have your hour of light. Or your minute. Take what you get and treasure it. File it away safely so that in dark hours you can pull it out and relive it, again and again. That's why we take pictures. The clematis climbs itself joyfully into the light.

You must do so too.

Yes, YOU.

I'm speaking to whomever has their ears open tonight.

*Well, I do actually know some of you.
A Girl Works Up A Thirst

Some days, even though you're not supposed to be imbibing anything zingy, you just have to. Life DEMANDS that you have not only a Meyer Lemon Spritzer, but also some beer. Because cleaning up a boy's room can be quite traumatic and take many hours. I have been avoiding Max's room for months. I hate being in it because the entire surface of the floor is strewn with Lego pieces. There is always some carefully groomed chaos going on in there that gets "messed up!" if I take a step inside.

Not to mention the bloody tissues. Quite a lovely spectacle for those not expecting them. Yes, I am trying to teach my kid to use the trash for his tissues. Of course, then the dog gets to them which is really nasty and means I have to pick up five billion shreds of bloody dog slobbered tissues...all of this, as you may well imagine makes a girl thirsty.

I am happy to say that his room now (finally) looks like a real moved into room. I have a hell of a time with moves. Getting rooms reorganized. I can't clean a room that hasn't been properly organized. Nearly all the people who read my blog seem to be very smart so I'm sure you can extrapolate the challenges I have trying to run my house. Mad chaos everywhere!

My mother has offered several times to help me unpack and organize, and she's very good at it, but my head hurts just at the thought and I know that if she comes over she will have to ask me a thousand questions in order to establish order, which starts feeling like me doing it but having to answer lots of questions while my head spins.

It all makes a girl terribly thirsty.

I love BBQ Sue. My dog does not. My dog thinks she's an interloper. I just feel sorry for Sue. She has such a tiny butt and has to stand around feeling very inadequate next to my more robust posterior. See how she can't even fill out my "skinny" clothes? I plan to dress her in my style and then accuse her of stealing my identity.

Metallurgy is really fascinating. And fun. On Wednesday I got to drill holes in metal using a drill press. These curly cues remind me of metal class in high school, which I didn't take, by the way. They remind me of other people taking metal working class and me picking up the strange curlies. They are very sharp. Don't ask me how I know.

After braving the kid's room I also moved some other furniture around in some other rooms. My sewing room is in a more impressive mess than it's ever been in because I had to move so much stuff around. At last it is taking shape. I did some laundry yesterday and actually folded it. (I think everyone should get to have a national day off when I actually manage to do AND FOLD laundry on the same day, it's that rare.) Then, because I am a super-person I also made dinner. I made pasta with a walnut pasta sauce, steamed green beans, and for dessert I made an apple crisp. I almost never make or eat dessert. I love apple crisp and have lots of apples so why not have a fabulous fall moment in the kitchen?

All in all it was quite a productive Thursday. Except for the part where I couldn't seem to go four days without beer. Oh well. Three is such a nice number too. It's only three but what I really want to do right now is park my tush in front of some CSI episodes and chill out. I need to shake off the residue of the strange bits and pieces my day has lodged in my head, like the question of why people are attracted to "hairless" dogs? Especially those Chinese ones with the weird shock of fur just on their heads and feet. Someone asked today why they don't make more stuffed animals like them and I suggested that it might be because children actually like fur on animals.

That's my diplomatic way of saying that the reason why hairless dogs really aren't seen that often is because it takes a rare kind of human to appreciate them.

I'm still being diplomatic. Let's leave it at that.

The word diplomatic got me going on a whole political wave of thought, which I've decided not to share at the moment, probably to your delight.

I will leave you all with the following question: do you think there will ever be a time in this country when racism will truly be an evil of the past and not the present? If you think it is remotely possible, what do you think it will take to achieve a country where racism is not a national issue?*

Aren't you thirsty now too?

floaters, n (as defined in my personal dictionary): strange thoughts floating randomly through the sludgy river of my brain catching the dim light of my eye like glitter in the gloom.

*I don't know if I think it's possible to end racism or not. I want to believe it is. The realist in me thinks that racism (which is all over the world) is a component of being human- a real primal check mark between "us and them" which allows us to maintain our separateness. Unless all people stop procreating at the current rate, we will none of us ever have the choice to be separate. So in this people crowded day and age it behooves us all to evolve new primal selves that don't see race as a separating factor.

Sep 25, 2008

Letting Go

Letting go is hard to do. Especially in a culture of mass information. My kid is almost eight years old and I have just, for the very first time, let him walk home from school by himself. We live very close to the school. In fact, I can see the school grounds from the corner of my cul de sac. It doesn't sound like such a big deal until you consider how few freedoms children of his age group generally have these days.

I don't know any kid his age who is allowed to ride their bikes freely all over town as I did when I was his age. I don't know any kids who ride or walk themselves to friends' houses. I see very few kids who walk themselves to and from school. When I was seven I used to walk myself to and from school every day which was about ten blocks from my house. Was it safe? Oh, mostly, except for the time I got mugged for my milk money. That actually happened within sight of my house.

I have tried to let my kid live a real life, using real garden tools as toys, using real forks and spoons for food (back when he actually ate food that required them), and I never managed to lock everything dangerous up in the house as we are advised to do. Mostly that's because we're kind of lame and those childproofing locks are a bitch to install and are often not just toddler proof but parent proof as well.

Anyway, I was thinking about how I have never let him walk anywhere by himself. Letting him cross the street to the neighbor's house last year was a big step for me. He thought I was kind of dumb to worry. I stood by my kitchen window pretending not to watch.

We all know what the worst that can happen is. The parent's worst nightmare is the pedophile.

If you haven't talked to your kid about this, you need to. Teach them how to keep themselves safe.

When Max was three he was trying to get me to let him play in the front yard by himself. The conversation went something like this:

Me "Come inside or play in the back yard. You can't play alone in the front."
Max "Why?"
Me "Because then I can't see you and I need to be able to see you."
Max "You can look out windows." This was true.
Me "But it's not safe for you to play out front without me there."
Max "Why?"
Me "Because you could get hurt. There are lots of cars that drive by fast."
Max "I won't go in the street"
Me "I know honey, but there are a lot of other ways you can get hurt."

I was trying to avoid scaring him too much.

Max "I won't get hurt. I'm careful."
Me "But there's no fence on the yard and people I don't know can walk by."
Max "I don't care!"
Me "I know you don't care but kids are very small and can be hurt by others."
Max "You mean they might try to steal me?"
Me "Well...yes, actually."
Max "If a person tried to steal me I would kick them in the penis!!"

I still didn't let him play out front without me for another three years, but I admit that I was impressed that my three year old already had a plan for dealing with malevolent strangers.

In deciding that it might be time to let the kid have a little more independence I thought about how I could possibly prepare him for avoiding bad situations and people. How much to say? I'm always surprised by how much he already knows and has thought about. I asked him if he wanted to be allowed to walk home by himself and he lit up and nodded his head violently.

"Alright," I said "then we need to talk about a couple of very important things. I need to know that you know what to do in certain situations, OK?" I asked him a series of questions:

What do you do if a stranger offers you candy?
I don't need your stupid candy! I have my own.

What do you do if someone offers you a ride to anywhere? I don't take rides unless it's you or dad or a friend like Rex who is one of my best friends. (Rex is 8 years old.)

What do you do if someone tries to grab you?
Well, first I would kick him in the balls and then I would punch him and then I would...(he had a very complicated list of violent maneuvers he plans to land on anyone unfortunate enough to try to grab him.)

I always tell him to yell, fight, scream like a banshee, and to do whatever it takes to get noticed by other people to get away from the stranger.

Other than that, what can you do? There comes a point when you have to let go a little. Because if they are going to know how to handle independence as adults they need to have earned it gradually under their parents' guidance. This is one of the very hardest things about being a parent in my opinion. I don't consider myself a particularly over protective parent, but I feel like putting my boy in a protective bubble where no pedophile can enter.

You really don't want to ask me what I think should happen to pedophiles either. It is one of the areas where I am irrational and my feelings betray my general nature of non-violence. I do believe that my feelings on the matter are raw, jagged, and primal, as they should be. I would not trust myself to be a judge or jury in the trial of any child-centric sex offender. I could not be trusted to administer fair treatment or application of our judicial system. Too much tiger in my heart for that.

It would be a disservice to let my fears prevent my son from a normal amount of independence and chance to assert his capabilities as a growing maturing human. So I am letting go. Ever so slowly.

Ways to empower your children:

  • Teach them martial arts.
  • Send them to a self defense class.*
  • Talk to them often about what to do in scary situations.
  • Make sure they know that no secrets are good secrets if suggested by an adult.

*In seventh grade PE class we had to take a course on self defense and one of the tricks I learned there helped me get out of the grasp of a mugger in San Francisco many years later. I didn't even know I remembered anything from that class but right when I needed it- it came back to me.

Sep 24, 2008

Random Wednesday
more thoughts on the fly

I'm very excited to say that my Ballerina rose is forming little tiny hips so I'll have some to harvest this winter. Like so many people I find miniature things irresistible. Full size rose hips are beautiful and when harvested usually need to be cut in half, stripped of the hairy interior, and then dried. Tiny rose hips can be dried whole. I saw some rose hedges last year, in my old neighborhood, that had formed the tiniest bright red rose hips ever and I almost died from the cute factor. I only picked one (because the hedge clearly belonged to someone) to see how the hip would dry. It dried very well and remained just as cute as ever.

Rose hips are a valuable source of vitamin C.

I carry dried beans around in my pockets to look at when no one is looking. Actually, that's a lie. I show them to people all the time. Like a kid who uncovered Aztec treasures in his own basement of crap.

Is it weird that I really miss BBQ Sue? She's been living at the book store downtown and I keep meaning to plot her return. Mannequins are heavy and very awkward so I can't bring her home on a bicycle or scooter. I keep wanting to dress her up in silly scenes around the house.

That totally reminds me to mention that I have been seeing so many more scooters around town. It's awesome! What's even better is that I see a lot of older people driving them. Did any of you know that there is a secret hand wave that scooter riders and motorcycle riders give to each other? I'm sure Vespabelle knows about this. You hold your hand out near your side. It is very low key. Acknowledge your fellow two wheelers, but in a cool and quiet manner befitting the smooth crowd.

Me, I am much too spazzy to handle this mature and smooth move. I have to wave high and smile wide like a raving idiot. Which I admit I kind of am.

When I first started driving my scooter I would forget that you can't remove your right hand from the handle while driving. I would see a neighbor and my right hand would shoot up enthusiastically and my engine would idle. A little embarrassing. I learned not to do that after about fifty embarrassing incidents.

It's cold out. Brrr. I LOVE IT!!!!!

I've been saving a huge pile of socks that are too small for Max now with the plan to reinvent them into a new patchwork sweater for myself. I figure I'll save all the cuffs and toss the worn out curved foot pieces and then serge them all together in a patchwork of knitted blue and black squares and then cut out a sweater when I have enough of them. It could take a while.

I really don't like that Megan character in the Miami CSIs. First of all, I'm constantly aware of the actor trying to project a classicly tightly wound officer type character. The hard bitten female officer archetype. Just like a man, but with breasts and super skinny thighs that appear to bow out in the middle. Partly it's also the costumer who really embraces clothes that make skinny women look hideous. The women's clothes in that show are way worse than the women's clothes in either of the other two CSI series. Megan wore a pair of striped trousers in one episode that kept drawing my attention to her lady-bits. It showed her semi-flat ass in an unflattering light, and just made her look stupid.

The thing I love about women is that often they have the power to mature without attaining a stunted hard bitten personality. A woman can be brilliant, strong, and experienced without having to become brittle and posture like a fool. Men have a much harder time growing in this flexible manner.

This is why I like the Emily Proctor character who is a ballistics expert with a soft southern accent, who isn't afraid to wear braids, but never loses sight of the blood and gore and doesn't flinch when shooting rifles. Dude- she kicks ass!!! No "I'm so stained by the evil in the world I must show you how tough it has made me" type of crap. No need for the cynical exterior.

Have I mentioned how much I dislike cynicism? Oh yes, I think I did recently address this. I have been through quite a lot in my life. I had already been through a lot by the time I was 18 years old. Death, abuse, drugs, cults, racism, bullying, mugging, I had seen all these things up close and personal. I know there was a point where I heard myself trying cynicism on because it's what all my street savvy friends were doing. I realized that it just made people sound stupid. Having experience does not need to rob us of our humanity, or our ability to hope even when there is no reason left to hope, and while sarcasm is always welcome as a stress reliever, cynicism is dull and devoid of laughter.

It was possibly my promise to myself to never allow myself to become cynical that has continually sent the opposite message: one of naivete and newness. Does anyone look at me and guess that I have been attacked in San Francisco at 2am south of Mission? Does anyone look at my body and guess that it has been beat the shit up? Does anyone look at me and see that I know all about erotic asphyxiation? That I have been friends with criminals and prostitutes? Do I look like a person who has sat in rooms with people all falling into the jaws of speed addiction where they fade like shells of bruised skin and bones and their spirits have ceased to be lit?

So when I see characters, real or imagined, who are really tough and need to make sure you know it with every word they say, I think "YOU SUCK!"

And when they are dressed in awful trousers that don't do any favors for their skin and bones bodies? I just want to dress them myself. Being thin doesn't have to look so bad. Being thin isn't in itself isn't so attractive that you can wear anything. That is an enormous fashion myth.

Well, it's time to go cut and grind metal. Have a great Wednesday!

I don't have time for links today. I will add them when I return home.

Most random thought of the day: Rufus Sewell is....there are no adequate words.

Sep 23, 2008

Walking The Dog
and other domestic thoughts

Let the pictures of this post tell a calm story of sweet walks beside the hazelnut orchard because I don't have much time to tell anything. I must get ready and leave for work soon. I do most of my writing in the morning. This is my time. Except for when I'm working in the mornings which is three mornings a week now. I am a creature of habit.

Just like my dog. Chick is the best dog in the world. She won't let anyone hurt us. She is our little guardian and a huge love to those who mean us no harm. She's eager to explore like a child.

Always putting her nose into the danger zone. This red winged wasp is kind of beautiful in a terrifying way but Chick just sees "Frantic thing with wings" and must investigate.

It is hard not to love a being that so joyfully runs towards you every time you call. Who, with ears and tongue flapping would give you the earth in her spit if only she could figure out how to haul it to your feet.

It's also hard not to love a State who's sky is so breathtaking at all times of the year. Shifting and moving, never still. The atmosphere is always cracking open here.

I just got my first rose catalog in the mail- from Pickering. It has reminded me that this year I must track down and order a dog rose ("rosa canina" is it's unsurprising name). I want it for it's hips. It's one of the very oldest species roses. Wild roses aren't generally suitable for the city garden, but I want one to climb either my fence or my house. The rose hips are ultimately what I'm after. The rose hips on the dog rose have the highest concentration of vitamin C of all the roses. (So I've read.) So if anyone knows of a source, please tell me!

Pickering has great prices and the shipping isn't too bad. I got some from them this past year and the ones that I actually got in the ground are doing pretty well.

The minutes are dropping away from my clock like the leaves from my Elephant Heart plum tree. Oops...not sure yet if the tree is dying or reacting to fall. I guess we'll have to wait til next spring to find out.

I need two hours to write most of my posts. There's the writing, the linking, the editing, the re-reading, the font adjustments, the swearing at Blogger, and finally the post comes up all shiny and new. No time for all that this morning. Damn. So if there are typos and broken links...forgive my sloppy. I go a little crazier than normal if I don't do a post every morning.

A creature of habit, like my dog. I don't insult myself at all. To be my dog is to fly through hazelnut orchards with ears flapping, investigating alarmingly big holes in the ground (Max thinks they're snake holes and is scared of them) and spreading my bald enthusiasm in so many liters of drool. It's a good life.

Sep 22, 2008

Built To Last
camellia house for a king

It is the usual old-man grumble "In my day we built things to things are made like crap so you have to replace them all the time." Yet, isn't it true? Cheap and dirty is such a false economy, but one that is hard not to fall for sometimes. When I walked through this beautiful building called the "camellia house" at Culzean Castle in Scotland, I couldn't help but feel awe that this building is now over a hundred years old, a building for housing and protecting a collection of camellias, built with infinite care, attention to detail, built of stone and metal and glass.

A building like this requires upkeep. The windows must be painted periodically to keep them from rusting, the wood parts must be conditioned, you can't just let it go or like all things on earth nature will reclaim her bits and pieces. These are things you wouldn't bother with if you had a fiberglass or plastic building. When companies claim that their product will last 25 years I read into that that the product might last 25 years but it will look 25 years old within the first couple of years. Hardwood floors age so much better than carpet, they take nicks and scratches and form a lovely aged patina of wear; the color darkens over time and gets warmer. Yet people still lay out their wall to wall because it's cheaper in the short term. Most of them are made of materials that, if you read anything about them, are pretty creepy and are helping to destroy the air in the making.

Ever since we've owned our own home and talked with others about home maintenance, and gone through the process of buying and selling homes a few times so have seen what is out there in our part of the world, I have found myself vastly annoyed by the assumption that what I really want in a house and yard is "low (or no) maintenance". Houses with vinyl siding that you "never" have to replace or repaint, aluminum windows, wall to wall carpeting, and concrete gardens dotted with juniper.

Energy saving is such a concern that everyone is replacing beautiful old windows with vinyl double paned. I understand why, but to me it is destroying something that should be preserved with love and care. Our house in Santa Rosa had so many gorgeous windows in it, all original and single paned, multi lights from floor to ceiling that let in light and framed the gorgeous sycamores outside our windows. All the glazing was shot when we bought the house and the first winter there were lots of leaks.

I learned to replace the glazing on the windows from a master and started repairing them. In the end we got them all fixed at once after the attic fire, but I was proud of the fact that I had learned to do it. I was proud of the fact that I had preserved the craftsmanship that went into the original windows. To keep old windows means you need to help keep energy in the house in other ways like have lovely insulated curtains on large windows. You can make them yourself. You can also fit them with paper or fabric blinds that fit snugly across them to help keep warmth in.

There is going to be lots to do on our current house. We can't afford to do anything right now so some of its issues will deepen a bit before we get to them. However, I am so happy to live in this well built home. There aren't a lot of pretty windows like I had before but they are still mostly original and let in pretty light which makes me happy.

I would like to build a green house out of old multi-light windows. Something that could be reglazed occasionally to preserve its integrity. My friend Sharon built one that is so charming, so sweet, and wonderful to sit in. It looks like a little synagogue. She is the one that showed me the potential to turn old windows into something new, useful, and beautiful.

I think it's time for all of us to return to the habit of making things to last out of materials that don't pollute the earth when they are done with their life of usefulness to us humans. It makes me sick to think of all the acrylic carpeting not disintegrating in the landfills. I think it's time that we save to buy good quality things rather that rush to buy crap. It's time to make more things ourselves as well. When we can.

As I work more and more hours I remember how hard it is to lead a good quality life when both partners in a family are working and no one is home making the good food, cleaning, gardening, building. All of these things add so much to a family's quality of living. How incredible it would be if all the two income family's who are doing well enough decide to stop chasing money and have someone stay home! Even part time is better than no time. So many people don't have a choice and I really feel for them. Sometimes though, we have a choice-we just don't see it. If you are both working so that you can make payments on two cars...why not have one car? If you are both working so you can have a really expensive house- why not find a less expensive house?

Our house isn't expensive as far as houses go. We have only one car. (Though I do have a scooter bought during a more affluent moment in our lives, four years ago now but there are no payments for either our car or the scooter). We don't have cable, or cell phones (!), or a vacation home, nor do we have sporting equipment, and we rarely take vacations. Most of the financial trouble we are in right now is because of two years of unemployment and unexpected difficulties in buying this house that caused us to go into credit card debt. This will not last forever. At some point one of us will be able to spend time at home making and doing all the things a home and family need for a good life.

I look forward to that day.

Sep 21, 2008

Sunday In A Small Town
and how wind chimes freak me out*

Sunday morning. Cold, grey, quiet. I love this morning. I also love how talking about my aversion to games started such a great discussion. I love how there is room for all of us; you can love games and its not hard to find friends to play with you; you can hate games and while it's harder to find like minded spirits, you can rub the dog's belly while others are playing. I am so satisfied with that!

I am really loving the Showtime show "The Tudors". It's true that there is way too much sex in it for me to be really comfortable, just as I suspected. Really no need at all to watch Mary Boleyn go down on Henry the 8th. I very much dislike Jonathon Rhys Meyers because he is such an arrogant actor (I've read interviews and he's such an asshole). However, I underestimated how much I love that time period, the history that accompanies it, the back drop, the costumes, and the fact that all these people had to operate without television news, radio, phones, or computers.

What I'd really like to know is, when will Jonathon start growing the famous red (unsexy) beard that Henry wore? And when will he start to wear the fat suit? Henry was NOT a skinny guy.

Sunday in my family was never about church since we weren't Christians. Sometimes my parents had us all sit in a meditative circle at their Buddha altar and "ohm". But mostly Sundays were about yard work and food. My mom always seemed to cook good food on Sundays. Sometimes after doing some weeding my parents would let us play with friends but friends were hard to find in Ashland Oregon on Sundays unless you went to church. Most of our friends were born again Christians. So Sundays came to symbolize emptiness in the afternoons. The whole town was steeped in an oppressive quiet.

It gave room for me to hear the wind chimes on every one's porches all across town in an eerie tinkling that sounded more like human keening. Sundays have always been a day of acute discomfort to me because of its emptiness filled only with the lonely aching longing of the chimes which sound like empty souls trying to find purchase on the banks of hell.

Most of my friends already know this about me and I have discussed it here before: my incredible aversion to wind chimes. Here in Mac someone very clever once left a little tiny wind chime near my front door. I sense that it was left there by a Christian person trying to untie my brain. Luckily it was so small it couldn't even really catch a breeze.

Wind chimes make me think of places where serial killers hide. Where bad things happen. Where humanity has deserted and all that is left is metal music in the wind. They are like ghosts whining about purgatory, caught in the metal tubes forever, like a pale recording of their shadowy souls. Tinkling tinkling tinkling away into the empty Sunday air like a persistent hammering in my brain.

I realize that chimes are just chimes. I am only telling you what they make me feel like and why they fill me with dread rather than delight, as they do for many people. My mom loves chimes. Many of my friends love them too. I respect that. They don't hear the same thing I do or have the same memories of the empty atmosphere filled with them. I never make a fuss about other people having them**. Even when they are tinkling away and unscrewing my head in the process. I just pretend I don't notice and then later I try to shake the sound back out of my head like water out of my ear.

I didn't really notice Sundays in Santa Rosa so much. Probably because no one I knew went to church. Instead it seemed to be a day for community, everyone out in their yards doing yard work but stopping to chat with neighbors taking walks and kids running around together in a great melee of shrieks and flying dirt. Sundays were for being home, or hanging out with neighbors close by. Sundays were for cooking, like they were for my family growing up, and then play. Filled with noise and laughter and friendly gossip.

Here it is the same as it was in Ashland. Most of my town is in church right now. There are even buses all over the place to transport you to church if you can't get to it on your own, which seems insane considering that there are churches within spitting distance of almost every house in town. We have a lot of churches here. I suppose there are a lot of spiritual needs that go along with all the teen pregnancies that seem to accompany very churchy towns. I heard Santa Rosa had a big teen pregnancy problem, but it can't compare to the rate here***!

Later we're going to go to a Slow Foods potluck for some good food and talk with other like minded people who relish cooking, the time it takes to make good food, and using as many local ingredients as possible. I have lots of food to make to keep it from going to waste.

I canned 15 pints of chunky spiced apple/pear sauce. I also canned five pints of grenadine. I worked almost all week. I have also finally propositioned friends to help write the magazine so we are all starting the great project of writing the thing. I'm very excited about it!

I hope you all have a satisfying Sunday, whatever it means personally to you.

*If by this time you are asking yourself "What the hell DOESN'T freak her out?!" then all I have to say is welcome to my world of anxiety. When people notice that I "worry" a lot, they don't really understand the half of it. Having generalized anxiety means that my experience of the world is fraught with both rational and irrational fears. I have a very long list of things that disturb me, freak me out, and depress me. Sometimes I even impress myself with it.

**Not to my awareness anyway. I know I've commented on them to people before but I don't think commenting is the same as making a fuss. I don't know, maybe I do make a big stink and I just block it all out? Only my friends and family can really say for sure.

***Actually, charts show that teen pregnancies are on the decrease here. That's good news.

Sep 19, 2008

a very special hell

The sentence I most dread at any social gathering is "Hey! Let's play a little game..."

The minute I hear that sentence I know I'm going to be outed yet again.

I know I'm going to be cajoled, coerced, and looked at like a freak of nature.

It's not a secret that I don't play games.


I was once accused by a friend of possibly enjoying not playing games just to be different and to make a fuss. Lord, like I need any extra ways to make a fuss, I can do that in my sleep.

What constitutes games? So glad you asked:
board games, parlour games, group games, this extends into group activities that are structured to be "fun" (like games), card games, word games, any activity that comes with a set of rules to make the activity more "engaging", any activity with teams where the goal is to win, any activity in which you play against another person with the goal to win. I hate them all.

You might be asking yourself "How can anyone not like something so fun?" Believe me, this is not an original question.

You might be thinking "But, no one NORMAL hates games, surely?!" You have a point there that will surely keep me up at night.

It might occur to you to wonder "What could have happened to lead a person to such a distaste for FUN?" Truly, it's on every one's mind.

I would like to try to answer these vexing questions for you.

First of all, I would like to point out that the experience of having fun is a highly subjective one, that we all experience fun in different ways and while it's true that the majority of humans seem to thrive on competitive games between each other and find it highly entertaining, (sometimes even laughing in response to the activity), for a few of us these activities are like taking a hot little elevator to hell and not coming back until all our hair is burned off of our bodies.

What kind of people don't enjoy games?
Are any of these people NORMAL? In all honesty, probably not. I know that I am a person with a clinical mental medical condition and it's entirely possible that everyone else who hates games has also got one (or a few). I think you may sooth your worries about personal safety though because these people tend not to be dangerous. More than likely they won't break your dishes in a fit of rage when they see the Scrabble board come out nor are they likely to suddenly sprout a third leg. However, don't be alarmed if you see them curl up in a ball in the corner of the room and start to drool.

As to the last question- how could this distaste for fun have come about? Was it a result of being hurt by fun? Is there a deep seated irrational fear or dark event in the past that has triggered this crippling distaste for all that is good and pure in the world along with kittens and ice cream?

I think I can only answer this question from my personal perspective. It all boils down to the fact that I am a socially retarded individual who finds nearly all group activities distressing in the same way that it would be distressing to try to swim with a group of kids if you were the only one who couldn't swim. It's like having to sing the national anthem naked in front of David Bowie. It's distressing to me on a molecular level. This equation may explain things a little more clearly:

people+rules+competition=desire to peel own skin off face.

What some people perceive as "fun" is to me like water torture.

The only card game I've ever liked was solitaire.

Because I can play it ALONE.

Yes, that's right, I'm a loner. A lone wolf. A real rebel. Oh yeah, I like to really shake things up and enjoy making everyone uncomfortable with my zany ways.

The truth is, (and Philip will back me up here), I don't like not liking games. It isn't convenient. People always want to convert me to their game playing ways, like it's a religion I need to join. I would never have to tell anyone about my game-hate if it weren't for the fact that those who like to play games can't stand it when someone doesn't want to join them. They don't understand that the activities that they find "fun" fill me with dread.

I make exceptions for my kid. I have learned to play "Chutes and Ladders" with aplomb. I can play "Uncle Wiggly" without wanting to gouge my eyes out. And I did actually enjoy the recent chess playing with Max, but mostly because I knew I wouldn't win and he was enjoying teaching his mama something new.

However, I tried to play Monopoly with him a few times and got a nasty panic attack each time and finally had to tell my boys that I can't do it ever again.

For anyone who's interested, here is a list of the games I've played and hated: Old Maid, War, Monopoly, Clue, Candy Land, Dreidel, Scrabble (except with Philip), Operation, Croquet, Blockus, Trivial Pursuit, Charades, Twister, Pin The Tail, Twenty Questions, Bingo, relay races, baby shower games (!!!), hide and seek, Battleship, card games whose names I blocked out of memory for sanity protection, ouija board, Sorry, Connect Four, UNO,Yahtzee, and many many more.

The only game I've ever really enjoyed was Chinese Checkers. But I don't want to play it with you. The only reason why I don't dread it as much as the others is because of the clacking of the marbles on the metal base. It soothes me just like a crazy person might be soothed by the sight of pretty shiny things.

Here's a break down what it is about games that I find so horrifying:

  • Organized fun sucks.

  • Winners and losers. Life is already full of real opportunities to win and lose and it's pretty serious stuff. I hate anything that reenacts the winner/loser dynamic.

  • I loath any kind of competition. I think this made my Dad think I was broken when I was a kid. It means I not only hate all games, I hate sports too. With a passion.

  • Games remind me of dusty jokes with stale punch lines that you are still expected to laugh at. They aren't fun in exactly the same way that clowns aren't funny.

  • Group activities freak me out.

  • Games create an air of expectation and pressure that threaten to explode my head.

  • Most people don't like losing and I am acutely uncomfortable with sore losers.

  • Just as much as I am uncomfortable with ungracious winners.

  • Games bring out a side in people I don't like being around.

I have had a total of 38 years to become intimately familiar with my aversion to games and in that time I have been pressured into trying many many games and been coerced into a shitload of "fun" group activities that have left little scars in my head. I have come to a point where I'm very comfortable with the idea of never playing another game. I don't feel I'm missing anything in my life besides a lot of really bad feelings, dread, and the resultant panic attacks.

So how do you deal with people like me?
(Some of my friends are still trying to work this one out). You leave us be. You play your games and let us sit quietly and watch. I can say that I don't resent others playing games, and I encourage my friends in their pursuit of the fun games bring to them, I simply want to be allowed to sit by and not participate. I don't want to be heckled about it or harassed.

For those who are on a quest to try and convert me into a happy game player- you will lose. How ironic is that? I know you will lose and it isn't because I'm being stubborn. I am merely trying to protect myself from activities that I know for a fact will make me panic, will make me itch from the inside of my bones out, will make me extremely miserable, and will guarantee disappointing my friends.

What I get to live with is that if I play games I will disappoint my friends, if I don't play games I disappoint everyone. It's not a good feeling and I don't enjoy having this issue with "fun". I don't enjoy being a person who doesn't like jokes with punch lines, clowns, balloons, practical jokes, games, sports, or group activities. It's something that has caused me plenty of grief, made me stand out like a sore thumb when what I really want to do is just blend in.

I forgive all my friends for not understanding this aspect of me. I forgive all the people who have tried to convert me, not understanding that it isn't a matter for conversion. I also forgive the people who aren't my friends who have looked at me like a freak when I decline a super exciting game of Twister because the idea of getting tangled up with a bunch of probably sweating bodies in uncomfortable positions didn't appeal to me.

Now all I can ask is that everyone forgive me for having an unfortunate quirk in my head and heart that make it impossible for me to be a participator. I really am human. That third leg is just left over from evolutinary change.


***Great diversionary tactic. Yeah? I am so shocked that there are still people out there who don't believe the evidence that supports the theory of evolution. There is so much evidence stacked up to support it that I didn't actually think it was still considered a theory by some people that has yet to be proved. I'd set to work to prove it to them, but wouldn't that be a little like someone trying to convince me that games are fun? I will let them be. I will let them be their own kind of freak.
When I Was A Punk

I was never a punk.

I've been threatened by punks. Rich punk kids were always the worst. There was one in my high school who decided I had "Weak Ass" printed on my forehead and tried to terrorize me. Truth be told I was absolutely not interested in being beat up, I was scared of her. I knew I wouldn't fight her. She would stalk up to me all crazy-eyed punk spikes in the eyes and tell me to move from where I was sitting so she could have my spot. For a long time I just went with it.

But I got tired of the whole play. It finally dawned on me that if I just got beat up the whole game would be over and we could all move on to something less tedious. So one day when she ordered me to do something or other I said "Look, Karen, I'm not going to fight you. You know I'm not going to fight you and I know it. If you want to beat me up just do it now and get it over with." She was a little non-plussed. What do you do with that?

This, oddly enough, won her unending respect and she decided to be my best friend. Which was so unfortunate because I really couldn't be friends with a person who had spent a couple of months trying to terrorize me. I only won her respect when I lost all fear. The fact that her character preyed on the weak made her a person I couldn't like. Still she somehow clung to my side for months. I am a diplomatic person, I don't like hurting people, so I didn't really know how to break it to her that her kind of person was like dog-vomit slime mold to me.

So I let her hang out with me and my friends, who I think must have only barely tolerated her, and eventually she really did get me beat up. One dark and stormy...just night me, my friend Lisa*, and punk-ass Karen went to the city so Lisa and Karen could score some tabs. Or something else illegal. We were trolling up and down upper Haight Street kind of late at night when a drunken skinhead exited a bar whose door we were standing near. The drunken person in question was very loud and it became immediately clear that she was not a happy Fred Astaire type drunk. She started harassing us and wouldn't you know it? Karen, the punk, decided to give some attitude back. I knew this was a bad move the second I saw Karen's posture stiffen in the classic "I'm punk rock-hear me roar" stance.

I had had enough of Karen's stupid attitude and awful personality. I started walking away from what was clearly a foul wind-a-brewing. I must have gotten about 20 feet away before I looked behind me to see where my friends were when a fist came hurling towards me like a cartoon and went KER-PLOWY!!! into my face, splitting my lip and giving me a bloody nose.

Ouch!! Getting beat up is so much worse when it's done by someone you love. When it's a drunk skinhead who won't remember a thing in the morning it doesn't hurt nearly as much. The ho-bag turned around and laid into Karen, ripping out several sets of earrings. We tried to use the bathroom at the Rock-n-Bowl joint but they wouldn't let us skanky bloody teens in. Damn them classy joints! So we huddled into the bathroom at the nastiest McDonald's I've ever been in. A place that cockroaches make reservations with for fancy feasts in the city.

I believe I found the motivation to cut Karen loose after that. I felt kind of sorry for her in the end because she had adoring parents, a room every girl dreams of, the nicest house in the nicest neighborhood and unlike my fridge- hers had lots of food in it.

THAT WAS A TOTAL LIE. I didn't feel sorry for her. I was just happy to get her out of my life.

I was never punk. I also wasn't truly a death rocker. I wasn't exactly a superstar, and I wasn't really ever a "cool" kid. I didn't fit in anywhere. I had a few good friends though, which is all anyone really needs.

I loved this suit which I bought at the Salvation Army. I also loved this tie which belonged to my Dad in the 1970's and I wish I still had it. I have always loved wearing suits and ties and would do so still if it wouldn't make me look like an obese Mr. PotatoHeadGangsta Version. See the Madonna style bracelet wad? That is the only style I think I got directly from her. Believe that I was very upset when everyone started attributing the vintage clothes craze to her influence! What you can't see in these pictures very well is the really stylish rat's tail I had going on. I'm not embarrassed by very many styles in my past, I tend to continue to enjoy most of them...but this one always makes me cringe. It's not any different from having a mullet.


You know, this is all so different from another bully story I have. One where I had an opportunity to kick my bully while she was down. Such a classic moment in a gradeschooler's life. My tormentor was getting beat up and I was invited to join in. I couldn't resist. For two years I'd been scared shitless. I kicked her while she was down. I remember feeling a little sick in my gut as my foot made contact with her side. It was so wrong. It was dishonorable, for one thing, to kick anyone when down. I knew that.

But it also felt wrong on such a fundamental level, to administer pain to another being. I still, to this day, 27 years later, feel lousy that I did it. But I suppose it was a good lesson to me. It didn't matter that this same person had pushed me out of my school chair onto the floor. It didn't matter that she threatened to beat me up in the alley right across the street from the school on the way home at least once a week. I knew that committing violence on other people was wrong.

A couple years later, when the two of us (my tormentor and I) were in Junior High I had lost all fear of her. As I found confidence in my weird-ass self I seemed to care so much less about Erin. She was a wasp with a bright blond stinger but my skin had grown into leather. She knew it. We both could sense when the game was up. I still remember the day when she made the first friendly overtures to me that she'd ever made in the whole five years we'd gone to school together. I didn't need her. It was a great revelation. When I didn't have fear of her, she ceased to have power and she felt me take it away.

I took it away from her. I took it away from Karen.

I think about what's happened to these two unfortunate souls from time to time. I see Karen as a high powered Marin County lawyer with a husband named Biff and two children as spoiled as she was herself, and a coke habit as well as a lover named Biff. Yeah, I know, what are the chances? Erin I always like to think of as having retained only 64% of her original teeth, one divorce and six kids later she's washing dishes at Big Al's Diner.

My fantasy life is so much better than candy!

*Neither Lisa B. nor Lisa E. I have had a lot of Lisas in my life. I don't understand it. I just go with it now. Obviously I like Lisas.