Where do I begin with this freakin’ month. It went by way too fast, I’ll tell ya that much! When I look back on what I read, what I did, it’s all a gigantic blur. I am still mourning the loss of my cousin; still haven’t found the strength to search death certificates to find out what really happened to him. Maybe I, deep down in the depths of my soul, really do not want to know how he met his demise. Maybe I am not strong enough to handle the truth or his tortured life.
I’m also in denial about the runner I used to see everyday on my way into work. His case is a little harder to wrap my heart around. He is a complete stranger who made an impact on me with his little red hat and bony knees. I don’t know his name. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive. All I know is that the tenacious, determined soul I saw every morning is gone. I have to admit I am a little less inspired to start each day.
Given all that, my reading hasn’t been inspiring either:
- Death at an Early Age by Jonathan Kozol (oh how ironic). I enjoyed this as much as anyone could reading about an underfunded urban school trying to serves underprivileged kids.
- Primary Colors by Anonymous. This is one book that I actually read during the proper month – on honor of Election month, something political.
- Victorian Lady Travellers by Dorothy Middleton. I think I mentioned this before but I was really disappointed Middleton used so many quotes from the ladies she was writing her about. They wrote more of the book than she did.
- By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think when I read this I was looking for some relief from the woe-is-me I had been reading earlier.
- Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. This was a reread from my high school days. If I had been following the reading schedule this would have been read in December in honor of King Arthur but since this wasn’t about King Arthur per se I guess I am okay.
- Beyond the Bedroom Wall by Larry Woiwode. My one incomplete of the month. I just couldn’t get into it. Shame on me.
- Nop’s Trials by Donald McCaig. Shame on me (again) for ended with another tearjerker of a story. Yes, it ends happy but it definitely has it’s sad moments.
So, there is it. What else happened in November? I got to see some really great music – Futhur and Bela Fleck (not together, although that would have been freakin’ ah maze ing). Kisa and I tried to make it up to Monhegan for Thanksgiving but ended up being here. Again. Sigh. Of course the weather was perfect for days afterward….c’est la vie.
December is all about ME this time around. I am going to be taking care of my health, my family, my friends, my marriage, my house, my education, my employment…in other words, my life! My well-being is up to me, myself and moi starting in the month of December. Why December? Why not!
For books it is:
- Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress ~ in honor of Alabama becoming a state
- Made in America: an informal history of the english language by Bill Bryson ~ in honor of Bryson’s birth month
- Best nightmare on Earth by Herbert Gold ~ in honor of December being one of the best times to visit the Caribbean.
- Apology by Plato ~ in honor of the first Chief Justice (John Jay) of the United States. John Jay was born in December 1745.
For ME it is:
- much, much more!
**Edited to add: I just received word that I also have a LibraryThing Early Review selection! It’s called My Nine Lives by Leon Fleisher. It’s his memoir about his music career and dealing with focal dystonia. I’m really excited. This will be my 46th book for the Early Review program. While I am really, really honored I also feel a little guilty for being “chosen” so many times. But, here’s the thing – when people ask me why I request books (if I feel so guilty) I tell them it’s the only way I can read something NOT on the Book Lust Challenge list!
Dunn, Stephen. “A Secret Life.” Landscape at the End of the Century. New York: W.W. Norton, 1991, p 72.
“A Secret Life” has got to be one of my favorite poems of the month. Stephen Dunn isn’t exactly explaining why people have secret anythings. He’s more of the understanding nature. He simply gets it – the idea that people simply must have something they keep to themselves. The line, “It becomes what you’d most protect” defines the secret life perfectly. It isn’t wholly formed from the start. It grows and progresses. It becomes. I think a secret life starts early in the way that an obsession starts without notice. There is no cause for concern when the hoarder furtively buys and smuggles home one china cat, but about the 1001th one when it comes tumbling out of a closet?
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Poetry Pleasers” (p 188).
Hirshfield, Jane. “Rebus.”Given Sugar, Given Salt. New York: Perennial, 2002. p. 12
I took Jane Hirshfield’s “Rebus” quite literally. Picturing clay and honey to mean words like emotions. “You work with what you are given,” she says. I took that to mean your life is what you make of it. Feelings like grief and stubbornness are something to work with, an element of something bigger. I liked the imagery of a river best of all. The idea that we are what we make of ourselves and that are choices can go either way – much like the unpredictability of a river’s current.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Poetry Pleasers” (p 188).
For the sake of sanity I have to recap the entire summer. Summer as we think of it in terms of the calendar, not the temperature. June. July. August.
June can only be thought of as a dark and hellish tunnel. In that case, July was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. As a result, August was not only getting out of the dark and hellish tunnel but moving as far, far away from it as possible. August was an amazing month!
August was music (loved the Avett Brothers and had a great time at Phish). August was homehome with my best boys. August was also a group of good, good books:
- The Moviegoer by Percy Walker ~ interesting story about a man watching life go by rather than living it.
- Turbulent Souls: a Catholic Son’s Return to his Jewish Family by Stephen J. Dubner ~ this was fascinating.
- The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester ~ another fascinating nonfiction with great illustrations.
- The Mutual Friend by Frederick Busch ~ a novel about Charles Dickens that I couldn’t really get into.
- Those Tremendous Mountains: the Story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by David Freeman Hawke ~ another nonfiction, this time about the Lewis and Clark Expedition (like the title says).
- Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Expery ~ all about war-time aviation.
For the Early Review Program:
- Sandman Slim: a Novel by Richard Kadrey ~ absolutely crazy good book.
- Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives ~ an amazing travel book! Really beautiful!
- Finished reading Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni ~ part political, part personal, this was great.
- My First 100 Marathons: 2,620 Miles with an Obsessed Runner by Jeff Horowitz ~ funny and informative, too!
- Running and Being by George Sheehan ~ funny and sarcastic and informative all at once!
Stevens, Wallace. “Table Talk.” Opus Posthumous. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957.
I like the first line best, “Granted, we die for good.” I can just imagine two people sitting around a kitchen table talking about why they like certain things and how it all matters only when you are alive. While all poetry can be manipulated to suit the reader, I believe that Wallace’s philosophical nature comes through in “Table Talk.” There is an awareness to the good things in life; the joys of being alive. It’s almost as if this poem is more than good timing.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Poetry Pleasers” (p 189).
You could say my obsession is my abode. You could say I’ve been too wrapped up in work. You might even say I have been a little fixated on health issues. All of the above I say. All of the above. Luckily, the proof is only in the house. I haven’t been keeping tabs on work or the workings of me. But, here’s the house and how it’s been:
2/23 Closing day. Breasts aside, we are a go.
2/24 Where to begin?
2/25 We have a phone
2/26 Get another truckload from the apartment
2/27 Get another truckload from the apartment
2/28 Get another truckload from the apartment
3/1 Seller here. First visitors. Washer/dryer are in
3/2 First snow storm. How do they handle snow around here?
3/3 Get another truckload from the apartment
3/4 Did first load of laundry
3/5 First cat puke – Get another truckload from the apartment
3/6 Change the freaking locks already
3/7 First day alone
3/8 Get another truckload from the apartment
3/9 Cat comes out
3/10 Ran on tread for the first time – mail didn’t go
3/11 Mail didn’t go
3/12 Mail didn’t go
3/13 mail went- get another truckload from the apartment
3/14 Double apartment trip – in-laws see the place
3/15 Dining room set came – faucet trouble
3/16 Get another truckload from the apartment
3/17 Hate not having the dish
3/18 Really hate not having the dish
3/19 Loving the microwave
3/20 Get another truckload from the apartment – Hello Coldplay
3/21 Get another truckload from the apartment – living room end tables arrive
3/22 Get another truckload from the apartment – Zeke comes home
3/23 This kitchen isn’t working
3/24 This kitchen isn’t working
3/25 This kitchen isn’t working
3/26 Thanks for the manuals
3/27 Get another truckload from the apartment
3/28 fixed the shed window – new security system
3/30 This kitchen might work
3/31 can we get rid of more boxes?
4/1 Hello chocolate for cheaper!
4/2 You shouldn’t have…
4/3 The first turtles come out. Art comes in!
4/4 More turtles
4/5 Get another truckload from the apartment (when will it end?)
4/6 Art gets its place
I met someone today who blew me away. Picked me up, spun me around like a hurricane and got me going in the right direction again. As everyone knows it’s far too easy for me to be angry, to hate, to be glass half empty (and cracked). Far too easy for me to be Negative Nelly. Bitchy bitchy bitch bitch. Then came him and the hurricane. Here’s how it went. I complained, he came back with compassion. I bitched, his was a brighter view. I ranted, he rallied. I was negative, he said never say never. I smirked, he smiled. Back and forth we sparred.
Take this story – I have a hanger-on. Someone who just won’t go away. I was feeling cynical and snide. Loved to be evil, warming up to the hellish conclusion. When I was done I thought he would agree. I thought he would share in my negativity. Instead, he smiled. Smiled and offered me this HaveYouThoughtAboutThisWay? different angle. He cocked his head to the side and said, “from everything you told me I can’t see what the big deal is. I don’t know Your Problem so I can’t judge except to say I don’t see the problem.” It’s the “I don’t know…so I can’t judge…” part that got me. Why am I quick to say weird? Why am I eager to say wrong? Exactly what is the problem?
I’m sorry I have been so mean to you when you weren’t looking. I’m sorry I painted a bad picture when really you are a masterpiece. I’m sorry to have confused you with something sinister. I take it back.
To my new friend. Thank you for being compassionate. For being caring without knowing. For listening to me judge without a jury. While you drove me crazy with your “to be fair” sentence starters I see where you are coming from. And to be fair, I want to be just like you.
As you might have guessed, we have started living in the new house. It doesn’t really feel like OUR house yet. The cat won’t come out from under the bed. In every room there seems to be a reminder of the old owner. Behind ever closet door a secret dying to be told. To date I have found 21 cans of diet soda, ten rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, 5lb hand weights, eight bottles of beer, three pairs of sunglasses, a model corvette kit, binoculars in a fancy case, all kinds of baskets in different shapes and sizes, a Mickey Mouse phone, four Christmas plates, a huge Italian style serving tray (that spins!), an Easter basket (literally), a Halloween dish, tons of gift bags, spare change, bags of epsom salt, coat hangers, large bike hooks…Curtains stayed on some windows. Candles still stand silent and dark in the fireplace. Expensive phones are still plugged in. When someone asked me what kind of housewarming gift the sellers left I didn’t know what to say. These people didn’t want to leave. Why would they want to thank us for moving in when they obviously didn’t want to move out?
On the other side of moving in is moving out. Middle Street is still a mess. We made a mad late night dash to retrieve a few things. Clothes for work. Hoses for the washing machine. Wrenches for the treadmill (that’s another story altogether!). Contact lens solution. Indiana’s favorite toy. My ipod. tivo box. The coffee maker, milk, sugar, coffee and (forgot the) coffee scoop. Coming back was like thieving. We snuck in and scrambled to take what we needed. It felt furtive. We rushed around stuffing bundles of things in bags without really knowing what we were taking. “Entering and breaking and taking in every room.” So we were. It looked like miniature bombs had exploded in every corner. I couldn’t find more than one spare pair of underwear to save my life yet I found a toe ring embedded in the bedroom carpet.
Later, much later exploring the aisles of a super-scary Super Wal-Mart I felt criminal. In my coat pockets I had a cordless phone, a cell phone, nail scissors, nail clippers, tweezers, a cat toy, a head of garlic, one pair of underwear, a box of picture hangers, a box of thumb tacks, an ipod, a toe ring, a receipt from Starbucks, a to-do list from last year, a wallet, two sets of keys, a wad of cash, and two days worth of mail. I’m surprised I wasn’t searched on the way out.
It will be awhile before I feel that there is a place for everything and even longer before everything is in its place.
A true story.
The man needed to take his cat to the vet. She had stopped eating and was starting to vomit. All the time. He had her in a carrier. He had a carrier for his cat, but no car for himself. His cat came first, always. So he took a bus and took his cat to the vet. Cancer, they said. Nothing we can do, they said. They did not charge him. So the man left to take his cat home. Went to the same bus stop he got off from. When the bus pulled up he slowly climbed aboard, holding his carrier more carefully than before. A cat dying of cancer needs more care. He took his seat with a sigh. “No animals on the bus” the driver said looking up in the mirror. What do you mean no animals? But, that is how I got here, the man replied. “I don’t care. No animals on the bus.” The bus driver was louder now, glaring back at him in the reflection. “You’re holding up my schedule. Get off my bus.” But, this isn’t your bus. The man argued back. So, I’m not leaving. The bus driver, furious now, ordered everyone else off the bus and called the police. The man with the cat stayed where he was.
When the police arrived they questioned the driver. The man with the cat looked down on the interrogation from his high bus window. The police officer’s arms were folded across his chest. The bus driver was gesturing wildly. Soon, the officer climbed onto the bus and headed back to the man with the cat. “What seems to be the problem here?” he asked. No problem, the man answered. I just want to take my cat home. She’s sick. “It’s a law – no animals on the bus.” The police officer looked at the cat. You will have to arrest me because I have no other way home. Take me in handcuffs, the man replied. And that is what the officer did.
But, the story doesn’t end there. On the ride to the station the man with the cat and the cop got to talking. The officer mentioned he had a cat. The man with the cat mentioned he was bipolar and relied on the goodness of strangers to help him cope with his disease. The officer mentioned his sister was bipolar. Soon they were exchanging stories about the ups and downs of illness, human and feline. Instead of taking the man with the cat downtown he asked him where he lived. Then, he took the sick man and his sick cat home.
I am not who I am say I am…or rather my mother isn’t who she says she is. At least not last Monday. I now know where I get IT from. Those closest to me will know exactly what I mean when I say, “I just had IT a minute ago!” or “I can’t find my…[fill in the blank]!” I am notorious for losing things despite having them in my possession moments before. I’ve mastered the ability to lose things so well it’s become an art form for me. No one is surprised to see me dig through a bag for minutes on end looking for misplaced keys; wander around the apartment looking for shoes; search cabinets and counters for lost cups of coffee. I think that’s the real reason I don’t wear a watch.
But, here’s the thing. I now know where I get it from. I always had my suspicions it was a genetic thing – handed down from matriarch to daughter. Now I have the proof. This weekend my mother came to visit. Managed to get herself here by bus without an ID. Sweet talked the bus driver in little ole Maine, I’m sure. Somehow she got herself here without having to prove who she was to anyone. Her excuse? She left her ID in “the other bag.” My words exactly. I say that all the time. I could have been standing before her and admitting the same thing. We had a little laugh over the forgotten ID, added an eye roll and an “Oh mom!” and forgot all about it. Until Sunday night when mom asked, “Now, how do I buy a ticket back?” Ummmm….Errrr…Hmm. I don’t know.
We ended up doing the old bait and switch. I have never been one to be tied down to identity. A name doesn’t mean all that much in my view of the world. So when mom became me and I became nobody it was if I had been born to play the part. I handed the ticket to the driver. I got on the bus. And someone else drove away.
What happens when you have second thoughts about a decision? Do you try to go back to the crossroads and turn around, take a different route? Pretend it never happened? Or, do you decide to make the best of where you are and forge ahead? Push on through doubt and back away from the precipice of regret?
What happens when you have second thoughts about a person? Do you go back to the moment of confidence, take back your compliments and turn to someone else? Pretend you never felt that way? Or, do you give him the benefit of the doubt and ignore the signals of miscommunication and misinterpretation? Push through the anger and shut the door on disappointment?
What happens when you have second thoughts about a dream? Do you go back to the moment just before slumber and pray for a different nightmare? Do you shut out the visions of what could be and focus on the reality of what is, never confusing the two? Or, do you forge ahead with the dream, as costly as it may seem; Take that chance, shut your eyes tight and leap with more faith than a gospel choir? Put your trust in happily ever after?
I think you do both. You learn from your mistakes. You take that bad decision and find away to earn something from it. You take that misjudgement of a person and you say you’re sorry and move on. You take that dream and leap, yes. But you leap with both eyes wide open.
I had a funny
thoughtquestion yesterday. It came out of someone else acting tougher than need be. When is it okay to say you need? When is it okay to lean on someone else for support even though you know damn well you can do it all by yourself? If my father had his way for my life he wouldn’t have wanted me to need anyone for anything. “Figure it out for yourself” he would have said. Be tough, be strong. Be blahblahblah.
I have this friend. This amazing friend who I sometimes complain to, bitch to, vent to, rant to. She listens with every fiber of her being and then tells me what I already know. I need her in my life to keep me sane. I may think I’m having an insane moment; a very insane moment, but she’ll reel me back in and tell me what’s logical about my lunacy. I don’t need her yet I do.
I have this husband. This wise-azz, smart, sensible husband who I sometimes whine to, cry to. I ask him permission to buy spooky signs, giant pumpkins and haunted villages. I need him in my life to keep my budget grounded. I may think I can afford every ghost, cat, witch and skull that comes along but he’ll reel me back in and tell me what’s illogical about my yearnings. He tells me what I already know. I don’t need him yet I do.
I have this life. This funny, crazy, vulnerable life which I sometimes think isn’t worth bothering with. I see black clouds and glass-half-empties all the time and often I find myself asking what’s the point? It’s then that I realize I need this life just the way it is, just the way it turned out. I can look you in the eye and say it. I need you.
I think I’ve said it a billion and one times. Today makes a billion and two. I always root for the underdog. That doesn’t mean I like the self-professed Homer/Family Guy; the guy who is proud to be life’s class clown fukc-up. Kisa, when I first met him said “I’m dumb.” But, that didn’t mean he was describing his whole IQ in a nutshell. He meant when it comes to meaningful relationships he’s not Mensa. I like that honesty, that soul-baring GiveMeAbreak mea culpa. I’ve Never Done This Before kind of virginity.
Let me clarify one thing. Underdog doesn’t mean under-confident, under-powered, under anything. Really.
I think I speak for every woman out there when I say tough is attractive. There’s a reason why the bad boy wins and nice guys finish last. Sometimes. Confidence is kickazz. Awkward is…well…awkward. Daring James Dean trumps goofy Gilligan every single time. Why am I saying this? Well, I’m tired of that guy saying he’ll never find someone. I know why. He knows why. He sells himself short. He takes pride in being a punching bag, the punchline to someone else’s joke. Meek is murder on meeting people. It’s frustrating when the personality has flat lined five minutes into the conversation. The underdog is scrappy, a fighter, a face to be reckoned with – not walked over. I was telling a friend about Kisa and she exclaimed, “but he’s such a nice guy!” Yeah, he’s nice, but not exactly innocent when it comes to trouble.
I came across someone’s Woe Is Me-ness the other day. If I had a remote I would have changed the channel. No, if I had a remote I would have hit the mute button. No, no, no! If I had a remote I would have shut the whole thing off. Here’s a tip, boyfriend: you are smart, you are funny, you are even cute to boot. Stop whining about what wasn’t or what was at one time and wonder what could be. Stop telling me how everything about your life falls short. Do something about it. Do something about you. Really. Be a man for fukc’s sake. Or, if you can’t be a man, be a bad boy.
I spend a lot of time thinking about myself. I don’t think it’s a vanity thing. I think it’s an identity thing. Truthfully, I think it stems from an identity crisis of sorts. Some time ago I wanted to impress someone to the point of oppressing my personality. He liked pancakes at 2am. I was an 8am egg girl, but I learned to make flapjacks his way, and worse, love them. His likes and dislikes became my own through tons of time pretending. I faked so much I forgot who I really was. Was I a girl who loved golf or one who couldn’t stand the game? Was I sweats and tee-shirt, stand at the fridge chugging milk from the carton, or was I white slacks and silk blouse sipping a mimosa? I was in conflict with who I really was but at the time, true to form, oblivious. Blind. Friends tried to warn me as I lost my name, but I was too busy booking my next tee time. Helpless in a sea of Helpfuls.
I do believe that everyone “gets” something from the people they come into contact with. Especially the long-time, intimate contacts. I’m not talking mono or an STD. I’m talking about personality shaped by connection. Particles of personality clinging to the psyche that is undeniably “you.” I have an affinity for grape soda, hot dog and green olive pizza, Enigma, and apples with cheddar cheese because of someone introducing them to me. I’m sure I would have discovered these things on my own because in the grand scheme of things they were destined to be “favorites” (regardless of how I got to them), but I’m grateful the direction that led me there that much sooner. I practice yoga because one of the most important people in my life showed me the way. I dont’ do it for her but I can honestly say it’s because of her. I carry my father’s way of answering mail. I mimic my mother’s mannerisms when meeting strangers. I’ve adopted things and made them my own. I think I can name a particle I’ve acquired from every boyfriend I’ve ever had, even the golf fanatic…despite the fact I’ve definitely dropped the game.