Saturday, May 27, 2006

Which Star Wars Character Are You?

I think this falls under the category of "who the hell has time to come up with this stuff and why don't they think of something better to do like save the world?" Nonetheless, I found it an entertaining use of five minutes to find out which character I was most similar to. I must confess, I was a little shocked to see that it was a robot, but my surprise was far outweighed by my relief at not being labeled Jar-Jar Binks. I can't stand that particular character! At least R2 never betrayed anyone, and he can't really die, so I guess I'm happy. I would have been okay with Yoda, too, but I think I'm a little cuter than him, at least in a human female kind of way. The following are my results. There is a link to the test at the end of this post - take it and let me know who you are. Maybe we can have a Star Wars cocktail party someday and all come in costume....oh, God, I can't believe I just said that! I'm really nowhere near that much of a geek!

You are R2-D2
R2-D2 76%
Padme 66%
Princess Leia 62%
Yoda 62%
Obi-Wan Kenobi 61%
Luke Skywalker 58%
C-3PO 57%
Han Solo 54%
Jabba the Hutt 53%
An Ewok 52%
"What you lack in height and communication skills, you make up for in industriousness, technical know-how and being there when others need you most. "
(This list displays the top 10 results out of a possible 21 characters.)Click here to take the "Which Star Wars character are you?" quiz...

Letting Go

Togetherness, connectedness. Whoosh, my belly goes flat in a release of pressure and out slides my baby girl. The cord is cut and we are separate. She comes to my chest and is part of me once again.
As she sleeps in her cradle, I feel a loss. No more kicking or turning in my stomach; the phantom feelings of a lost limb. More separations to come.
She explores with her eyes, filtering through her own lens. I no longer make all her determinations for her. This freedom feels strange to me. I liked knowing I was her protector and advocate as she grew in my womb. Keeping her safe out here is much more difficult.
My pride at her accomplishments, sitting up, crawling, walking, babbling, is tempered with a longing for her continued dependence. She starts to express her opinions, saying “No!” and pushing me away when I offer her a banana or take her for a bath.
Her strong personality emerges as a butterfly from a cocoon, slowly and triumphantly. Her colors are astonishing – she will look like me and be just as stubborn. I realize that these wings will also lead her away from me in ever-widening circles of exploration. I am scared. Have I taught her to make good decisions? How can I guard her if she travels too far?
I would recognize those colors and patterns anywhere. She will know to come back to me if she needs me. Our original connection, physical and elemental, will outlast our separation. We no longer share a material, corporeal attachment, but our lifeblood has mingled. I skim the surface of the pond and the ripples I make reach out and touch her wake. I watch her take flight and my spirit soars with hers.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Divorce was my friend. Really!

I came of age in the era of divorce and latchkey kids. There was much lamenting and hand-wringing about the state of these poor children who came from broken homes, and I did my part to exploit and take advantage of the things that came my way because of it. Hey, c’mon, it’s the American Way, right? Opportunists are rewarded! As I got older, though, I began to realize that even though I had certainly suffered some evils due to the breakup of my parents’ marriage, all in all, their divorce was a good thing. A fantastic thing, even. Perhaps even the thing that saved my life and the fate of countless others. I realize I have a penchant for exaggeration, but I truly believe that my parents did me a huge favor by getting divorced. Mom, let your guilt fly away like the fluff from a dandelion, caught on the wind and spirited away to land in a nearby puddle and die, never to spawn another weed.

I was eight years old when my father moved out of the house, and, by all accounts, it was a very rough time. I followed the predictable pattern of believing that their divorce was somehow my fault. Had I only been a better kid and not fought with my siblings and if I hadn't lied about stealing that extra cookie, they would have stayed together, right? Sounds reasonable when you’re eight and the world revolves around you.

I’m certain I also had some fears that if my mom could move my dad out so easily that my walking papers would arrive some day soon, too. I imagine my behavior in the weeks following was beyond reproach in order to avoid that.

But, being a latchkey kid was actually pretty cool. I learned a lot in those after school hours. My older brother taught me to make s’mores in the microwave and we learned that if you left the jet puffed marshmallow in there too long, it would eventually grow so big that it would explode and leave stalagtites hanging down that needed to be chipped off the following day with a putty knife. COOL!

I learned to operate the oven and bake cookies so that the house would smell wonderful when my mom came home from work. [On a related note, I learned the hard way that when you’re reading a recipe, you must pay close attention or you will add a cup of salt instead of a teaspoon and then when you taste the dough you will gag and choke and feel really guilty about wasting the ingredients and money it took to make the cookies.]

I learned that my little sister could find the best hiding places and loved to freak me out, but that I could coax her out of anywhere with the promise of some chocolate. I learned that chasing the cat could be fun unless she was “hiding” in the litterbox when you finally caught her and, when your brother convinced you she was just testing you, picking her up would result in getting covered in cat pee.

Then there were the lessons that I didn’t realize I was learning until I was much older. I learned to be self-reliant and independent when it came to a myriad of things, both personal and social. I watched my mother work her tail off to support her children, regardless of the fact that my father didn't pay a dime of child support. She had been miserable in her marriage, and even though she was no longer able to greet us at the door after school with a snack and a hug, she was doing what she needed to do in order to be happy, and she was doing it for herself. She didn’t choose to keep the marriage intact “for the children”. Instead she chose to prioritize herself and make an excruciating choice that would lead to her emotional freedom and strength.

I learned that a woman doesn’t need to be supported by a man and that no matter how young I was, I was an integral part of my family. I was expected to help out in any way I could and my siblings and I watched each other’s backs like a mother bear guarding her cubs.

I learned that you can’t always believe what people say, even if you think they love you. You have to have a back-up plan in case someone promises you something and doesn’t follow through. That was a tough one. I spent many, many years counting on my father and giving him the benefit of the doubt when he didn’t come through for me, and countless years after that being bitter and angry about his lies. I think I was 29 years old when I finally realized that it was my responsibility to be flexible and responsible for adapting to someone else’s lack of follow through. I had to learn that there are some people who you can never trust, and that I should never pin my own happiness on someone else’s actions. I am responsible for my own successes and when I choose to trust others, I am putting myself at risk. Most of the time that risk is worth it, but sometimes it hurts.

I learned that including myself in my list of priorities is imperative to my success as a wife and mother to my own children. Divorce is not something that will make or break a child’s ability to achieve their own victories, but watching how their parents handle it brings important lessons. I never doubted my mother’s love for us because I watched her work hard every day to provide for us.

It was my mother’s dream to have a house full of children to stay home with. When that didn’t happen, she adjusted her goals accordingly. Given the choice, I don’t think she would have done the job she ended up with, but it was the one that worked best and paid the best at the time. Over time, I watched my mother remarry, relocate, and eventually start her own business at the age of 50. She has since reinvented herself many times and is still going strong. She has found satisfaction in her job and her personal life and never stopped believing that all it would take was some adaptability and hard work. That is perhaps the strongest moral that came from my parents’ divorce.

As a mother, I am heartened by the example my mother set for me. I grew up relying on myself a great deal and now know that I am capable of supporting myself and my children financially and emotionally if I have to. I know that showing them that I value myself and my happiness more than the institution of marriage or the false notion of “stability” is integral to their ability to grow up to value themselves as well.

Watching my parents fight and eventually split up was traumatic for me at the time. I no doubt missed out on many things due to the reduced income and my mother’s lack of energy for several years following their divorce, but what I learned has far outlasted any of those experiences and is infinitely more important to me as a person. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Of Storms and Rainbows

I had one of those experiences last week that will reverberate in my life for years to come. I took a friend to hear Maya Angelou speak about rainbows in the clouds. The evening was amazing on so many different levels and I am sure that I have not even begun to plumb the depths of what she was trying to say.

As she began to speak, the time-worn, gravelly but honey-sweet voice projected out from her stately form and washed over me, prompting goosebumps to sprout on my arms and legs. I found myself completely unable to process the words she was putting together because I was so immobilized by the lilting cadence of her voice. I had come to this event wanting to capture each and every word she uttered in order to replay it in my mind for my children and my friends. I knew that this would be impossible, but I was prepared to try my best to remember it all. What I was not prepared for was the physical effect her presence would have on me.

As predicted, I was unable to recall specific phrases of enlightenment to use as sound bites. I suppose that was to be my version of “name dropping”; parcing out tidbits of brilliance that I had shared with Maya during our evening together. What I got instead was so much more valuable.

The curtain rose and Maya’s voice lilted over the audience to hang in the air. She sang, “When it looked like the sun wasn't going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds. “ She is no American Idol contestant, this woman, but her voice is arresting and full of life and pain and scars and caramel-sweet love. It is that crumbly, rich, dark compost of her life all captured in her expressions of wisdom. Now, I don’t happen to be someone who believes in “God”, but her lessons resonated with me.

I listened to her and the faces of my teachers, those people in my life who have arced down from the clouds to reach me with their light and color, formed in my head. I have had rainbows that appear every time the sky clouds over and I also have those, like the friend who was sitting next to me, who are relatively recent in my life. Those rainbows are not solid or tangible, but they emerge when the sky is dark and scary and feels terribly oppressive. When I see them out in all their glory I can breathe easier and take a moment to stop and enjoy the sight. I know that what is important is the remembering. Remembering to acknowledge the fear and darkness and the light that always comes from within it.
The light that couldn’t come without it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Take a bath!

There is nothing quite so frustrating as an incomplete bathing experience. At least, that’s how I feel, personally. I mean, given the choice, I would take an incomplete sex act over a piss-poor shower any day. I have traveled a great deal and have had some rough experiences with trying to get myself clean – horrid water pressure so that it takes forty minutes to rinse the shampoo out of your hair, scalding hot water every time the person in the next room flushes their toilet, rattling, shaking pipes that spit out rusty water, etc. I am not so terribly spoiled as I sound, either. I have even put myself in those situations – chosen to go camping in a place where the only option for a bath was to plunge myself into the snowmelt-swollen creek. And I will get over this morning’s disappointments soon enough – as soon as I have my latte in hand and am able to check my email.

You see, I have a fairly simple routine that wakes me up in the morning and enable me to face the day with some semblance of optimism. A nice shower, a double tall latte, and ten minutes to check the email that has come in overnight. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

I am staying at this cute, quiet little B&B in Portland that has only one other guest besides me. It is run by a mostly senile matron with overpermed hair and crooked lipstick who has filled every nook and cranny with wicker, quirky needlepoint sayings, and china. My room is the green room and I actually have a private bathroom just down the hall. My room is comfortable and quiet and even sports a small television, which I actually found a little disappointing, but it’s small enough that I can tilt my chin up a bit and look over it out the lace curtains to the magnolia tree in the front yard.

Yesterday when I arrived and was given the tour, I was most excited by the bathroom. The room itself is an enormous 10 by 10 foot space that boasts a clawfoot tub, pedestal sink, beadboard, hundreds of green and blue towels stacked up inside a leaded glass cabinet and antique tin signs advertising soap for five cents. It was like an engraved invitation to bring my favorite book and soak all day. A silver tray perched across the tub; the perfect place to put your perfumed soap and Egyptian cotton washcloth (or glass of wine). The room was spotless (although crammed with shell shaped soaps and antique containers filled with q-tips and cotton balls) and I instantly lamented the fact that I would have no time to use the room for its intended purpose thanks to the busy workshop schedule I have.

But this morning when I awoke, fully aware of the challenges I would be faced with in order to efficiently shower in that tub, I was still excited about the prospect of doing so in that gorgeous bathroom. I might mention that I was also desperate to get clean. You see, I am in the early stages of menopause which, for a multitude of reasons really sucks, but for right now means that I spent the majority of my night in sweat-soaked pajamas dreaming vivid, Technicolor dreams that make absolutely no sense in the light of day. I was anxious to shed my offensive pajamas and soap up.
I decided to first wash my hair and rinse the suds down the drain and then fill the tub and have a quick soak. The water temperature was perfect and the pressure was passable – ahhh. I put the rubber mat into the bottom of the tub and climbed in. Sitting on my knees, I realized that this was going to be a little more difficult than I had first imagined. The tub sat in the middle of the room and was completely devoid of any sort of curtain to prevent water spraying out of it onto the hardwood floor. I stood there for a moment envisioning the poor elderly woman cursing me as she cleaned the bathroom later on her hands and knees, frizzy hair askew and sweat stains blooming in her armpits.

I had thought to bring my favorite shampoo and conditioner and lathered up a bit too enthusiastically, neglecting to first find a solution to rinsing it all out. Finally, I held the shower wand close to my head and positioned my scalp directly over the drain, knees grinding into the floor of the tub. I could feel each and every tiny capillary bursting across my kneecaps as I struggled to keep my balance with my head tucked down and my ass in the air. As I came up for air, the back of my head met the faucet with a crack and I yelled, “Fuck!”, reaching up with one hand to see if I was bleeding and effectively showering every surface of the entire 100 square foot room with the shower wand in the other hand.

I slammed the knob down so that water gushed out the faucet into the tub and sat back, realizing that my feet were numb from the awkward position I’d held to shampoo my hair. As I maneuvered my feet out from under me and stretched them out the length of the bath, I actually glanced around the room for a hidden camera. I pictured the old lady sitting in her breakfast nook, eyes tearing up as she hooted out loud and doubled over watching my unfortunate antics.

I finished up by taking a brief and unsatisfying sponge bath and spent the remainder of my time wiping the shower spray off of the floor and walls. I barely had enough time to get dressed and find a coffee shop before class started. Thankfully, the line to get my latte was not too long and I managed to check my email before heading out. I considered checking in to a hotel for my second night’s stay, but the picture of that gorgeous bathroom wouldn’t leave my head and I couldn’t help but think that I could still manage to use it in a manner befitting my fantasy of it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hot Wheels

This is a writing exercise I did at my first writing class, with Hope Edelman (you should imagine me doing the "Wayne's World" posturing right now - I'm not worthy...). I rather like it and thought you all might like to see some of my writing, considering the title of my blog. Let me know what you think - honestly, whether it hurts or not (me, I mean -- if it hurts you, don't bother).

My brother’s room was spotless. You could bounce a quarter off of the bright crimson bedspread and the basketball-shaped lamp sat on a nightstand so highly polished I could see all my faults in it. I closed the heavy door and my brother held out the fluorescent orange plastic box that housed his prize collection of Hot Wheels to me with an expectant look on his face. He needn’t have asked – this was our favorite way to spend time together, but my pigtails bounced as I nodded my head and flopped onto the carpet cross-legged.

As soon as the clasps were unsnapped, our ritual of choosing cars began. He always let me choose first, and I always chose the red Corvette. I knew the one he coveted was the Dukes of Hazzard car and I would never deny him that pleasure. We continued to dip our fingers gently into the case, taking turns choosing cars until we each had a fleet of ten or so. Some choices were predictable. I loved the fire truck whose white plastic ladder extended into the sky, and he always chose the green Gremlin with the purple wings painted on the hood.

We squatted on the short, rough carpet printed with tile-like squares that we used for city blocks and set up our virtual city. Although we could hear neighbor kids playing outside and I could smell fresh-cut grass through the open window, we would not move for an hour or more. My breathing was slow and even and I felt no tension in my jaw or stomach. Chris’ auburn curls tipped off of his forehead, obscuring his face as he bent over his cars.

There were very few words spoken in this game. Every move seemed choreographed. We both found solace in this diversion. After we tired of manipulating the cars in our town, Chris got the racetrack sections from the orange box. He handed me a few and together we assembled the ramp and downhill sections. He was in charge of clamping the track to the top bunk and we took turns holding our cars at the top and releasing them. We watched reverently as each car escaped down the track, picking up speed before taking flight.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Just some fun stuff...

Miss Devylish came up with idea to craft some new "meme" questions, so here are my answers. Read on to get insight into my scintillating life...

What is the dish you take to every potluck?
I never take the same one. I always pick something different, but lately I’ve been doing desserts cuz nobody else ever brings anything chocolate or decadent enough for me.

Have you ever seen or felt a ghost, angel, spirit, or some sort of other-worldy being?
No, I think I’m too “logical” or scientific for that. But I definitely believe the dead live on and leave a legacy of love and influence among those they were important to.

Would you rather never workout again and be skinny forever or be able to work out whenever you wanted to and be a little overweight?
Never work out again. I despise working out simply for the sake of working out. I love to ride bikes, play volleyball, hike, swim, etc, but not in the name of losing (or maintaining) weight.

What is the hardest thing you think you've experienced so far?
Watching my husband nearly die from dehydration and shock in front of our children.

Do you like Snoopy or Woodstock better?

Can you talk and eat at the same time? And if so, can people understand you?
Well, that totally depends on what I’m eating. Pasta’s a bit tough, as are Saltines, but I can speak reasonably well with most other foods in there, I think.

If you could be good at any profession, which would you choose and why?
I would love to work with a non-profit that unites families who are needy with families who have more than enough resources and want to help.

Would you rather be a Playboy bunny or a Hooters girl?
Hooters girl.

Peanut butter – crunchy or smooth?

Bad boys, frat boys, intellectuals or dorks?
Depends on what they’re doing for me. I’d like an intellectual to do my taxes and manage my money, a dork to manage my computer network, a bad boy to do my lawn and I’m married to a frat boy.

Name 6 people, alive or dead, you'd like to invite to dinner.
Carl Sagan, my great grandmother, President Carter, my friend Susan, Gloria Steinem, and Bobby Flay to do the cooking

This is a two parter, and be truthful – when you are by yourself, do you get a 6 inch or a 12 inch sandwich from Subway? How about when you are with your friends? Actually, I tend to go next door to Starbucks instead. By myself, I order a double tall latte and an espresso brownie. With friends (except Angel) I’d order just the latte.

What was the worst thing one of your siblings ever did to you?
Told me he’d run interference with my mom while I snuck a Playboy magazine up to his room to look at later and instead he ratted me out and said it was all my idea.

Location of the best sex you've ever had?
Woods near the Santiam River.

Oddest place you've ever had sex?

If you were super drunk, and REALLY had to pee, but all the toilets were being used, would you consider alternate receptacles, i.e. the mens, outside, a sink?
I’d go in the men’s room before I’d use the sink, for sure!

If you had to pick, classical or jazz?

What's your favorite kind of pizza?
Frou frou gourmet – artichoke hearts, feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes

Ever flirted with a friend's significant other?
Jesus, I don’t remember! I’ve been with the same guy for over fourteen years, for God’s sake. Who remembers flirting? I’m sure I did when I was a teenager.

What was the blog site or blog post that began your interest in blogging? Please add the site name and link to specific post if possible for completely entertainment purposes.
Miss Devylish, of course.

Have you ever eaten a whole bag of Marshmallows?
Just the thought of that made me sick! Ugh.

Last time you drank so much that you had to throw up?
I avoid throwing up at all costs. I have definitely had the room spins, but hate barfing more than just about anything, so I’d (almost) rather hold it all in and die of alcohol poisoning.

Do you have a stupid human trick you can do if you ever get on Dave Letterman? And do tell, if so! Nothing terribly amazing. I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue, but it wouldn’t make for terrific TV.

Describe your perfect day. Waking up around 9:00am to sunshine and lying in bed reading for a while before showering. Eating a (ready-made) breakfast of pain au chocolate and a double tall latte with some fresh berries and going out to walk on the beach and explore tidepools. Playing with my kids on the beach, making sand castles, flying kites, playing chase, whatever. Having a picnic lunch with my family on the beach and settling down with my book again for a while (or for a nap) in the sun. Listening to live music outdoors to cap the day off with a bottle of wine, some stinky cheese, my honey, and some chocolate and heading back for a romantic bath.

Do you think the concept of a single best friend is outdated and unrealistic?
I certainly don’t think as I get older that having a dedicated “best friend” per se is important to me. I prefer to have a few really solid friends that I can count on and who I can trust to like me for who I am.

What about the idea of one true love? I don’t believe in fate or destiny or that there is only one person out there for each of us, but I am married to the only person I can truly imagine myself being married to right now. I can’t say that if something changed drastically that I wouldn’t ever find a fulfilling relationship with another person, though. I can’t predict that.

One of your favorite memories of all time? My husband proposing to me on the beach in Maui.

What is your least favorite physical feature about yourself? My thin, fine, floppy hair.

What's your most favorite? My naturally strong, long fingernails.

If you had one wish for making the world a better place, what would it be? Increased understanding and tolerance of differences between cultures.

What traits, good and bad, from your family do you possess? Impatience, perfectionism, and being short are the bad ones (duh). But I got good skin (no acne as a teen, I tan instantly and never burn), the willingness to help out wherever I can, and intelligence from my parents, too, so I guess the balance is in my favor.

When was the last time you played a board game, which one, and with whom? Candyland, yesterday, my three-year-old (but I suspect she cheated).

Name some person/place/thing currently that infuriates you Only one? I guess that would have to be Dubya

Name some person/place/thing currently that makes you happy, deliriously or otherwise (besides your boyfriend/spouse/fiance girls) The beach never fails to make me happy.

Ever been in a car accident? If so, how many and spill the details. Yup, three days after I got my license I spun out on wet gravel and drove my car off a forest service road three miles from anywhere after dark. The car got pinned between the side of the cliff and a tree trunk about 15 feet down and my boyfriend and I escaped with minor scratches and bruises, but boy were our mothers pissed off! Oh, and he had to slap me across the face to stop my shrieking.

What's your favorite word? FUCK! Although I rarely get to say it because I don’t want my girls to hear it from me first. I’d rather act indignant when they say it the first time and demand to know where they got that word. (Probably their Auntie Angel ;-))

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Power of Me

I recently read Joan Didion's book "The Year of Magical Thinking". I originally picked it up during a bout of semi-depression, hoping that I would feel better about myself after seeing how even someone as clever and insightful as Joan Didion could fall into the trap of magical thinking. The book was a bit of a letdown, but only because I had imbued it with some expectations of my own. I not only wanted Joan to commiserate with me, I wanted her to enlighten me with her newfound knowledge and offer me some profound moment of clarity that would immediately cause me to begin thinking in a new way. Hmm, do you think that was too much to ask from a book? Probably so.

My kids are the most shining example of magical thinking, as they ought to be. Kids are supposed to believe in their own special powers and their ability to alter their world. In fact, I have been known to take advantage of that on a daily basis. I tell them that Santa cannot come unless they are asleep and have taught them to "change" the red traffic lights to green at exactly the right moment. We parents count on the fact that as they grow, our children will be more able to distinguish fantasy from reality and the magical thinking will gradually diminish. Unfortunately, when a traumatic event happens in a child's life, things get a little muddy.

When my parents decided to split up, I was in the fourth grade. I remember thinking that they might stay together if I simply worked harder at keeping the peace. I ran around making promises to everyone that I had no hope of keeping and lie awake nights making plans to help everyone get along better. When I did sleep, I dreamt of an enormous colonial mansion that would house all of my family and friends. I was desperate to keep them all close to me.

During the day, I conscientously stepped over the cracks in the sidewalk, never cheated at games, washed my hands carefully after going to the bathroom, counted the steps from my bedroom to the main floor of our house, and put all my toys away every night in an effort to tidy up my little corner of the universe and keep my life in order. Counting the steps proved to be an especially fortunate habit when my parents began fighting more and more and I started walking in my sleep. Although knowing that there were sixteen stairs between my bedroom and the main floor and fourteen between the main floor and my parents' bedroom didn't prevent a divorce, it helped keep me from breaking my neck on my nightly journey to the end of their bed. My father tells me that every night around midnight I would silently appear at the foot of their bed, sound asleep, and he would dutifully carry me back up both flights of stairs and tuck me in again.

As an adult, I still engage in some magical thinking on a subconscious level. I find myself believing that if I just keep a tidy enough house, put healthy, homemade meals on the table three times a day, exercise the dog as much as he needs, read to my children and cater to their every desire and enable my husband to indulge in his dreams, my family will stay safe and together forever. So when someone falls ill or gets hurt, my carefully crafted bubble explodes in a shower of droplets and I panic. What do I do now? How do I keep this all together?

Reading Joan Didion's book didn't give me any solutions, but it did allow me to watch her journey through tragedy and heartache with her own family as she struggled to decipher her own place. I cried with her as she realized she could not alter the outcomes or control the circumstances, no matter what deals she struck. Desire is not a strong enough weapon in the war against intense sadness. I guess I'll just have to accept that knowing I'm not the only adult around whose superstitions make them feel safe.
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